Inferno (Hackett Edition) / Edition 1

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

An attractive new alternative as both a translation and a pedagogical tool. The volume includes an excellent introduction by Dante scholar Steven Botterill (Univ. of California, Berkeley), clear and informative notes by lifelong Dantist Anthony Oldcorn, a concise bibliographical note that indicates some important sources on Dante in print and online, and a diagram of Hell; Index of the Damned lists characters who appear in the canticle. The translator's preface explains Lombardo's choices as he faced the always-challenging task of rendering Dante's poetry into English. Among the most interesting choices are the occasional use of rhyme--especially in key passages and at the end of each canto, where interlocking rhymes that mimic Dante's terza rima are consistently employed--and an emphasis on creating a version that works well as an oral presentation, following the long tradition of private, public, and theatrical readings of the poem. The volume includes the original Italian text, thus facilitating classroom references and comparisons. --Rebecca West (Department of Romance Languages and Literatures, University of Chicago) in Choice

I deeply admired Lombardo's translations of Iliad and Odyssey, as did my students--they were universally complimentary, loving the way the poetry flowed, and many of them learned the habit of reading the text aloud, much to the astonishment of their classmates from other sections of the courses. But their encounter with his Inferno was of a different order, as was mine. Lombardo's Inferno is so knowledgeable of the translation tradition (which it uses to marvelous effect), so poetically well-crafted, so compelling to read, so well-documented without overwhelming the reader, that I simply did not want to put it down. My students had much the same reaction. Although in the first session they were responsible for only the first third of the book, I quickly noticed that most of them had already read it through. They found it compelling to read and were captivated by a journey to which many of them had the week before said they did not look forward. --Ted Humphrey, Barrett Professor in the Barrett Honors College, Arizona State University

This newest verse translation offered by Stanley Lombardo artfully carries into English the radical vernacularity, both linguistic and cultural, of Dante’s Inferno. Readers and teachers who want a text that will resonate with contemporary and colloquial American English would do well to choose this translation. Lombardo’s translation revels in the street music of Dante’s vernacular poetry and occasional vulgar style in the Inferno. At times the interaction between Dante's stock devils, the Malebranche, sounds like the dialogue in a Scorsese film.

Lombardo performs other poetic feats so that Dante’s poetry might stand out in English with the same vitality with which Dante infused his vernacular poem. Lombardo finishes every canto with a brief interlocked rhymed passage to give the reader a taste of Dante’s terza rima. He also shifts into rhyme for Dante’s diatribes. As Lombardo aptly points out in his preface, style and meaning must cohere if the art of the poet is to resurface in a translation, and the forcefulness of his translation allows Dante’s harsh poetry to carry through.

The volume contains various helpful tools for the reader to understand the Inferno, both as an expression of the medieval intellect and as a cornerstone of the European literary tradition, and provides ample headnotes, prepared by veteran Dante scholar Anthony Oldcorn, to each canto. Neither a simple summary nor a detailed gloss, the notes do provide narrative signposts while giving a feel for the myriad ethical, philosophical, and poetical themes that Dante confronts.

The eminent Dante scholar Steven Botterill provides a masterly introduction to the Inferno that grounds the poem in Dante’s Italy while refraining from dwelling on unnecessary detail. Botterill organizes the introduction into themes rather than offering a vita auctoris. The novice reader of Dante will learn the important facts of Dante’s life without having ever read the word Guelph or Ghibelline. Instead, Botterill, following his translator, emphasizes Dante as a vernacular poet and the radical invention of his poem.

Similarly, the endnotes, by Oldcorn, opt for brevity and elegance over the exhaustive apparatus that accompanies many editions of the Commedia. Reading Oldcorn’s endnotes is like discussing the text over coffee with a remarkably sophisticated friend. He diligently fills in expected gaps in the reader’s literary knowledge while also engaging in an urbane literary conversation. Oldcorn covers Dante’s fundamental literary genealogies while paying attention to his place in the Western tradition. This translation aims to bring Dante to a new audience of readers who are unfamiliar with Dante and the Italian tradition in general. --Jason M. Houston, Speculum

William Dean Howells
Here at last that much suffering reader will find Dante's greatness manifest, and not his greatness only, but his grace, his simplicity, and his affection... Opening the book we stand face to face with the poet, and when his voice ceases we may well marvel if he has not sung to us in his own Tuscan.
The Nation
Kirkus Reviews
This new blank verse translation of the first "Canticle" of Dante's 14th-century masterpiece compares interestingly with some of the recent English versions by American poets, though it suffers particularly by comparison with Allen Mandelbaum's graceful blank verse one. Its aim to provide "a clear, readable English version that nevertheless retains some of the poetry of the original" is only imperfectly fulfilled, owing partly to moments of unimaginative informality ("In Germany, where people drink a lot"), though these are intermittently redeemed by simple sublimity ("Night now revealed to us the southern stars,/While bright Polaris dropped beneath the waves./It never rose again from ocean's floor"). Translator Zappulla, an American Dante scholar and teacher, offers helpful historical and biographical information in an Introduction and exhaustive Notes following each of the poem's 34 "Cantos." Readers new to Dante may find his plainspoken version eminently satisfying; those who know the poem well may be disappointed by it.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780872209176
  • Publisher: Hackett Publishing Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 3/28/2009
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 512
  • Sales rank: 464,098
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Stanley Lombardo is Professor of Classics, University of Kansas.

Steven Botterill is Associate Professor of Italian Studies, University of California, Berkeley.

Anthony Oldcorn is Emeritus Professor of Italian Studies, Brown University.

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Read an Excerpt

CANTO I



Nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita

mi ritrovai per una selva oscura,

che la diritta via era smarrita.

Ahi quanto a dir qual era e cosa dura4

esta selva selvaggia e aspra e forte

che nel pensier rinova la paura!

Tant' e amara che poco e piu morte;7

ma per trattar del ben ch'i' vi trovai,

diro de l'altre cose ch'i' v'ho scorte.

Io non so ben ridir com' i' v'intrai,10

tant' era pien di sonno a quel punto

che la verace via abbandonai.

Ma poi ch'i' fui al pie d'un colle giunto,13

la dove terminava quella valle

che m'avea di paura il cor compunto,

guardai in alto e vidi le sue spalle16

vestite gia de' raggi del pianeta

che mena dritto altrui per ogne calle.

Allor fu la paura un poco queta,19

che nel lago del cor m'era durata

la notte ch'i' passai con tanta pieta.

E come quei che con lena affannata,22

uscito fuor del pelago a la riva,

si volge a l'acqua perigliosa e guata,

cosi l'animo mio, ch'ancor fuggiva,25

si volse a retro a rimirar lo passo

che non lascio gia mai persona viva.

Poi ch'ei posato un poco il corpo lasso,28

ripresi via per la piaggia diserta,

si che 'l pie fermo sempre era 'l piu basso.



The voyager-narrator astray by night in a dark forest. Morning and the sunlit hill. Three beasts that impede his ascent. The encounter with Virgil, who offers his guidance and an alternative path through two of the three realms the voyager must visit.



When I had journeyed half of our life's way,

I found myself within a shadowedforest,

for I had lost the path that does not stray.

Ah, it is hard to speak of what it was,4

that savage forest, dense and difficult,

which even in recall renews my fear:

so bitter--death is hardly more severe!7

But to retell the good discovered there,

I'll also tell the other things I saw.

I cannot clearly say how I had entered10

the wood; I was so full of sleep just at

the point where I abandoned the true path.

But when I'd reached the bottom of a hill--13

it rose along the boundary of the valley

that had harassed my heart with so much fear--

I looked on high and saw its shoulders clothed16

already by the rays of that same planet

which serves to lead men straight along all roads.

At this my fear was somewhat quieted;19

for through the night of sorrow I had spent,

the lake within my heart felt terror present.

And just as he who, with exhausted breath,22

having escaped from sea to shore, turns back

to watch the dangerous waters he has quit,

so did my spirit, still a fugitive,25

turn back to look intently at the pass

that never has let any man survive.

I let my tired body rest awhile.28

Moving again, I tried the lonely slope--

my firm foot always was the one below.



Ed ecco, quasi al cominciar de l'erta,31

una lonza leggiera e presta molto,

che di pel macolato era coverta;

e non mi si partia dinanzi al volto,34

anzi 'mpediva tanto il mio cammino,

ch'i' fui per ritornar piu volte volto.

Temp' era dal principio del mattino,37

e 'l sol montava 'n su con quelle stelle

ch'eran con lui quando l'amor divino

mosse di prima quelle cose belle;40

si ch'a bene sperar m'era cagione

di quella fiera a la gaetta pelle

l'ora del tempo e la dolce stagione;43

ma non si che paura non mi desse

la vista che m'apparve d'un leone.

Questi parea che contra me venisse46

con la test' alta e con rabbiosa fame,

si che parea che l'aere ne tremesse.

Ed una lupa, che di tutte brame49

sembiava carca ne la sua magrezza,

e molte genti fe gia viver grame,

questa mi porse tanto di gravezza52

con la paura ch'uscia di sua vista,

ch'io perdei la speranza de l'altezza.

E qual e quei che volontieri acquista,55

e giugne 'l tempo che perder lo face,

che 'n tutti suoi pensier piange e s'attrista;

tal mi fece la bestia sanza pace,58

che, venendomi 'ncontro, a poco a poco

mi ripigneva la dove 'l sol tace.

Mentre ch'i' rovinava in basso loco,61

dinanzi a li occhi mi si fu offerto

chi per lungo silenzio parea fioco.

Quando vidi costui nel gran diserto,64

"Miserere di me," gridai a lui,

"qual che tu sii, od ombra od omo certo!"

Rispuosemi: "Non omo, omo gia fui,67

e li parenti miei furon lombardi,

mantoani per patria ambedui.



And almost where the hillside starts to rise--31

look there!--a leopard, very quick and lithe,

a leopard covered with a spotted hide.

He did not disappear from sight, but stayed;34

indeed, he so impeded my ascent

that I had often to turn back again.

The time was the beginning of the morning;37

the sun was rising now in fellowship

with the same stars that had escorted it

when Divine Love first moved those things of beauty;40

so that the hour and the gentle season

gave me good cause for hopefulness on seeing

that beast before me with his speckled skin;43

but hope was hardly able to prevent

the fear I felt when I beheld a lion.

His head held high and ravenous with hunger--46

even the air around him seemed to shudder--

this lion seemed to make his way against me.

And then a she-wolf showed herself; she seemed49

to carry every craving in her leanness;

she had already brought despair to many.

The very sight of her so weighted me52

with fearfulness that I abandoned hope

of ever climbing up that mountain slope.

Even as he who glories while he gains55

will, when the time has come to tally loss,

lament with every thought and turn despondent,

so was I when I faced that restless beast,58

which, even as she stalked me, step by step

had thrust me back to where the sun is speechless.

While I retreated down to lower ground,61

before my eyes there suddenly appeared

one who seemed faint because of the long silence.

When I saw him in that vast wilderness,64

"Have pity on me," were the words I cried,

"whatever you may be--a shade, a man."

He answered me: "Not man; I once was man.67

Both of my parents came from Lombardy,

and both claimed Mantua as native city.



Nacqui sub Iulio, ancor che fosse tardi,70

e vissi a Roma sotto 'l buono Augusto

nel tempo de li dei falsi e bugiardi.

Poeta fui, e cantai di quel giusto73

figliuol d'Anchise che venne di Troia,

poi che 'l superbo Ilion fu combusto.

Ma tu perche ritorni a tanta noia?76

perche non sali il dilettoso monte

ch'e principio e cagion di tutta gioia?"

"Or se' tu quel Virgilio e quella fonte79

che spandi di parlar si largo fiume?"

rispuos' io lui con vergognosa fronte.

"O de li altri poeti onore e lume,82

vagliami 'l lungo studio e 'l grande amore

che m'ha fatto cercar lo tuo volume.

Tu se' lo mio maestro e 'l mio autore,85

tu se' solo colui da cu' io tolsi

lo bello stilo che m'ha fatto onore.

Vedi la bestia per cu' io mi volsi;88

aiutami da lei, famoso saggio,

ch'ella mi fa tremar le vene e i polsi."

"A te convien tenere altro viaggio,"91

rispuose, poi che lagrimar mi vide,

"se vuo' campar d'esto loco selvaggio;

che questa bestia, per la qual tu gride,94

non lascia altrui passar per la sua via,

ma tanto lo 'mpedisce che l'uccide;

e ha natura si malvagia e ria,97

che mai non empie la bramosa voglia,

e dopo 'l pasto ha piu fame che pria.

Molti son li animali a cui s'ammoglia,100

e piu saranno ancora, infin che 'l veltro

verra, che la fara morir con doglia.

Questi non cibera terra ne peltro,103

ma sapienza, amore e virtute,

e sua nazion sara tra feltro e feltro.

Di quella umile Italia fia salute106

per cui mori la vergine Cammilla,

Eurialo e Turno e Niso di ferute.

And I was born, though late, sub Julio,70

and lived in Rome under the good Augustus--

the season of the false and lying gods.

I was a poet, and I sang the righteous73

son of Anchises who had come from Troy

when flames destroyed the pride of Ilium.

But why do you return to wretchedness?76

Why not climb up the mountain of delight,

the origin and cause of every joy?"

"And are you then that Virgil, you the fountain79

that freely pours so rich a stream of speech?"

I answered him with shame upon my brow.

"O light and honor of all other poets,82

may my long study and the intense love

that made me search your volume serve me now.

You are my master and my author, you--85

the only one from whom my writing drew

the noble style for which I have been honored.

You see the beast that made me turn aside;88

help me, o famous sage, to stand against her,

for she has made my blood and pulses shudder."

"It is another path that you must take,"91

he answered when he saw my tearfulness,

"if you would leave this savage wilderness;

the beast that is the cause of your outcry94

allows no man to pass along her track,

but blocks him even to the point of death;

her nature is so squalid, so malicious97

that she can never sate her greedy will;

when she has fed, she's hungrier than ever.

She mates with many living souls and shall100

yet mate with many more, until the Greyhound

arrives, inflicting painful death on her.

That Hound will never feed on land or pewter,103

but find his fare in wisdom, love, and virtue;

his place of birth shall be between two felts.

He will restore low-lying Italy106

for which the maid Camilla died of wounds,

and Nisus, Turnus, and Euryalus.



Questi la caccera per ogne villa,109

fin che l'avra rimessa ne lo 'nferno,

la onde 'nvidia prima dipartilla.

Ond' io per lo tuo me' penso e discerno112

che tu mi segui, e io saro tua guida,

e trarrotti di qui per loco etterno,

ove udirai le disperate strida,115

vedrai li antichi spiriti dolenti,

ch'a la seconda morte ciascun grida;

e vederai color che son contenti118

nel foco, perche speran di venire

quando che sia a le beate genti.

A le quai poi se tu vorrai salire,121

anima fia a cio piu di me degna:

con lei ti lascero nel mio partire;

che quello imperador che la su regna,124

perch' i' fu' ribellante a la sua legge,

non vuol che 'n sua citta per me si vegna.

In tutte parti impera e quivi regge;127

quivi e la sua citta e l'alto seggio:

oh felice colui cu' ivi elegge!"

E io a lui: "Poeta, io ti richeggio130

per quello Dio che tu non conoscesti,

a cio ch'io fugga questo male e peggio,

che tu mi meni la dov' or dicesti,133

si ch'io veggia la porta di san Pietro

e color cui tu fai cotanto mesti."

Allor si mosse, e io li tenni dietro.136



And he will hunt that beast through every city109

until he thrusts her back again to Hell,

from which she was first sent above by envy.

Therefore, I think and judge it best for you112

to follow me, and I shall guide you, taking

you from this place through an eternal place,

where you shall hear the howls of desperation115

and see the ancient spirits in their pain,

as each of them laments his second death;

and you shall see those souls who are content118

within the fire, for they hope to reach--

whenever that may be--the blessed people.

If you would then ascend as high as these,121

a soul more worthy than I am will guide you;

I'll leave you in her care when I depart,

because that Emperor who reigns above,124

since I have been rebellious to His law,

will not allow me entry to His city.

He governs everywhere, but rules from there;127

there is His city, His high capital:

o happy those He chooses to be there!"

And I replied: "O poet--by that God130

whom you had never come to know--I beg you,

that I may flee this evil and worse evils,

to lead me to the place of which you spoke,133

that I may see the gateway of Saint Peter

and those whom you describe as sorrowful."

Then he set out, and I moved on behind him.136



CANTO II



Lo giorno se n'andava, e l'aere bruno

toglieva li animai che sono in terra

da le fatiche loro; e io sol uno

m'apparecchiava a sostener la guerra4

si del cammino e si de la pietate,

che ritrarra la mente che non erra.

O Muse, o alto ingegno, or m'aiutate;7

o mente che scrivesti cio ch'io vidi,

qui si parra la tua nobilitate.

Io cominciai: "Poeta che mi guidi,10

guarda la mia virtu s'ell' e possente,

prima ch'a l'alto passo tu mi fidi.

Tu dici che di Silvio il parente,13

corruttibile ancora, ad immortale

secolo ando, e fu sensibilmente.

Pero, se l'avversario d'ogne male16

cortese i fu, pensando l'alto effetto

ch'uscir dovea di lui, e 'l chi e 'l quale,

non pare indegno ad omo d'intelletto;19

ch'e' fu de l'alma Roma e di suo impero

ne l'empireo ciel per padre eletto:

la quale e 'l quale, a voler dir lo vero,22

fu stabilita per lo loco santo

u' siede il successor del maggior Piero.

Per quest' andata onde li dai tu vanto,25

intese cose che furon cagione

di sua vittoria e del papale ammanto.

Andovvi poi lo Vas d'elezione,28

per recarne conforto a quella fede

ch'e principio a la via di salvazione.



The following evening, Invocation to the Muses. The narrator's questioning of his worthiness to visit the deathless world. Virgil's comforting explanation that he has been sent to help Dante by three Ladies of Heaven. The voyager heartened. Their setting out.



The day was now departing; the dark air

released the living beings of the earth

from work and weariness; and I myself

alone prepared to undergo the battle4

both of the journeying and of the pity,

which memory, mistaking not, shall show.

O Muses, o high genius, help me now;7

o memory that set down what I saw,

here shall your excellence reveal itself!

I started: "Poet, you who are my guide,10

see if the force in me is strong enough

before you let me face that rugged pass.

You say that he who fathered Sylvius,13

while he was still corruptible, had journeyed

into the deathless world with his live body.

For, if the Enemy of every evil16

was courteous to him, considering

all he would cause and who and what he was,

that does not seem incomprehensible,19

since in the empyrean heaven he was chosen

to father honored Rome and her empire;

and if the truth be told, Rome and her realm22

were destined to become the sacred place,

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Table of Contents

Introduction IX
Acknowledgments XIX
The Plan of Dante's Hell XXI
Inferno I
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