Paradiso: A Verse Translation by Robert Hollander and Jean Hollander


With his journeys through Hell and Purgatory complete, Dante is at last led by his beloved Beatrice to Paradise. Where his experiences in the Inferno and Purgatorio were arduous and harrowing, this is a journey of comfort, revelation, and, above all, love-both romantic and divine. Robert Hollander is a Dante scholar of unmatched reputation and his wife, Jean, is an accomplished poet. Their verse translation with facing-page Italian combines maximum fidelity to Dante's text with the artistry necessary to reflect ...

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Paradiso: A Verse Translation by Robert Hollander and Jean Hollander

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With his journeys through Hell and Purgatory complete, Dante is at last led by his beloved Beatrice to Paradise. Where his experiences in the Inferno and Purgatorio were arduous and harrowing, this is a journey of comfort, revelation, and, above all, love-both romantic and divine. Robert Hollander is a Dante scholar of unmatched reputation and his wife, Jean, is an accomplished poet. Their verse translation with facing-page Italian combines maximum fidelity to Dante's text with the artistry necessary to reflect the original's virtuosity. They have produced the clearest, most accurate, and most readable translation of the three books of The Divine Comedy, with unsurpassable footnotes and introductions, likely to be a touchstone for generations to come.

The finest of all Christian allegories, The Divine Comedy ranges over the whole culture —theological as well as literary— of the Middle Ages.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“A beautiful translation of the astonishing fourteenth-century poem. . . . The best on the market. . . . If you haven't read the Divine Comedy now is the time.”
The New Yorker

Paradiso . . . contains some of the most exhilarating poetry ever written. . . . Robert Hollander is one of the pre-eminent Dante scholars of our time.”
The New York Times

“For our time and for an incalculable future the Hollander translation of The Divine Comedy will be the one used by serious readers. . . . Splendid as this new translation is, the endlessly valuable notes are what make this edition supplant all others.”
National Review

“The Hollanders' version is supple and clear, a triumph.”
The Los Angeles Times

“Very likely the most enduring, both as a literary achievement and for its commentaries.”
Atlantic Montly

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781400031153
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 9/9/2008
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 1024
  • Sales rank: 195,897
  • Product dimensions: 5.20 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 1.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Jean Hollander has taught literature and writing at Brooklyn College, Columbia University, Princeton University, and the College of New Jersey, where she was director of the Writers’ Conference for twenty-three years. She recently published her third book of poems.

Robert Hollander, her husband, taught Dante’s Divine Comedy to Princeton students for forty-two years, and is the author of a dozen books and more than seventy articles on Dante, Boccaccio, and other Italian authors. He is Professor in European Literature Emeritus at Princeton and the founding director of both the Dartmouth Dante Project and the Princeton Dante Project. He has received many awards, including the gold medal of the city of Florence and the gold florin of the Dante Society of America, in recognition of his work on Dante.

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Read an Excerpt



1-12 -proem: looking back at the completed journey and the promise to narrate the rest of its course

13-36 -invocation (fifth in the poem): the aid of "Apollo"

13-21 -invocation proper

22-36 -result of such inspiration; justification for it

37-60 -the narrative begins: Dante still in earthly paradise

37-42 -the constellation Aries

43-48 -noon: Dante looking as Beatrice looks into the sun

49-54 -simile: the sun in her eyes and reflecting rays

55-60 -Dante can look directly at the sun

61-81 -the ascent toward the Moon

61-63 -rising, Dante seems to see a second sun above him

64-66 -he looks back to see the stars reflected in her eyes

67-72 -simile: Glaucus and Dante's own "transhumanation"

73-75 -the poet cannot say whether he ascended in body

76-81 -reaching the sublunary ring of fire: son et lumiere

82-141 -Dante's questions and Beatrice's responses

82-93 -the first question: where is he? and the response

94-99 -the second: how can he pass through air and fire?

100-126 -response: the upward inclination of all things

127-135 -response: how things diverge from their true goal

136-141 -response: but not Dante, now freed from sin

142 -coda: Beatrice looks back up.


La gloria di colui che tutto move

per l'universo penetra, e risplende

3 in una parte piu e meno altrove.

Nel ciel che piu de la sua luce prende

fu' io, e vidi cose che ridire

6 ne sa ne puo chi di la su discende;

perche appressando se al suo disire,

nostro intelletto si profonda tanto,

9 che dietro la memoria non puo ire.

Veramente quant' io del regno santo

ne la mia mente potei far tesoro,

12 sara ora materia del mio canto.

O buono Appollo, a l'ultimo lavoro

fammi del tuo valor si fatto vaso,

15 come dimandi a dar l'amato alloro.

Infino a qui l'un giogo di Parnaso

assai mi fu; ma or con amendue

18 m'e uopo intrar ne l'aringo rimaso.

Entra nel petto mio, e spira tue

si come quando Marsia traesti

21 de la vagina de le membra sue.

O divina virtu, se mi ti presti

tanto che l'ombra del beato regno

24 segnata nel mio capo io manifesti,

vedra'mi al pie del tuo diletto legno

venire, e coronarmi de le foglie

27 che la materia e tu mi farai degno.

The glory of Him who moves all things

pervades the universe and shines

3 in one part more and in another less.

I was in that heaven which receives

more of His light. He who comes down from there

6 can neither know nor tell what he has seen,

for, drawing near to its desire,

so deeply is our intellect immersed

9 that memory cannot follow after it.

Nevertheless, as much of the holy kingdom

as I could store as treasure in my mind

12 shall now become the subject of my song.

O good Apollo, for this last labor

make me a vessel worthy

15 of the gift of your beloved laurel.

Up to this point, one peak of Mount Parnassus

has been enough, but now I need them both

18 in order to confront the struggle that awaits.

Enter my breast and breathe in me

as when you drew out Marsyas,

21 out from the sheathing of his limbs.

O holy Power, if you but lend me of yourself

enough that I may show the merest shadow

24 of the blessed kingdom stamped within my mind,

you shall find me at the foot of your beloved tree,

crowning myself with the very leaves

27 of which my theme and you will make me worthy.

Si rade volte, padre, se ne coglie

per triunfare o cesare o poeta,

30 colpa e vergogna de l'umane voglie,

che parturir letizia in su la lieta

delfica deita dovria la fronda

33 peneia, quando alcun di se asseta.

Poca favilla gran fiamma seconda:

forse di retro a me con miglior voci

36 si preghera perche Cirra risponda.

Surge ai mortali per diverse foci

la lucerna del mondo; ma da quella

39 che quattro cerchi giugne con tre croci,

con miglior corso e con migliore stella

esce congiunta, e la mondana cera

42 piu a suo modo tempera e suggella.

Fatto avea di la mane e di qua sera

tal foce, e quasi tutto era la bianco

45 quello emisperio, e l'altra parte nera,

quando Beatrice in sul sinistro fianco

vidi rivolta e riguardar nel sole:

48 aguglia si non li s'affisse unquanco.

E si come secondo raggio suole

uscir del primo e risalire in suso,

51 pur come pelegrin che tornar vuole,

cosi de l'atto suo, per li occhi infuso

ne l'imagine mia, il mio si fece,

54 e fissi li occhi al sole oltre nostr' uso.

Molto e licito la, che qui non lece

a le nostre virtu, merce del loco

57 fatto per proprio de l'umana spece.

So rarely, father, are they gathered

to mark the triumph of a Caesar or a poet—

30 fault and shame of human wishes—

that anyone's even longing for them,

those leaves on the Peneian bough, should make

33 the joyous Delphic god give birth to joy.

Great fire leaps from the smallest spark.

Perhaps, in my wake, prayer will be shaped

36 with better words so Cyrrha may respond.

The lamp of the world rises on us mortals

at different points. But, by the one that joins

39 four circles with three crossings, it comes forth

on a better course and in conjunction

with a better sign. Then it tempers and imprints

42 the wax of the world more to its own fashion.

Its rising near that point had brought out morning there

and evening here, and that hemisphere

45 was arrayed in light, this one in darkness,

when I saw that Beatrice had turned toward her left

and now was staring at the sun—

48 never had eagle so fixed his gaze on it.

And, as a second ray will issue from the first

and rise again up to its source,

51 even as a pilgrim longs to go back home,

so her gaze, pouring through my eyes

on my imagination, made itself my own, and I,

54 against our practice, set my eyes upon the sun.

Much that our powers here cannot sustain is there

allowed by virtue of the nature of the place

57 created as the dwelling fit for man.

Io nol soffersi molto, ne si poco,

ch'io nol vedessi sfavillar dintorno,

60 com' ferro che bogliente esce del foco;

e di subito parve giorno a giorno

essere aggiunto, come quei che puote

63 avesse il ciel d'un altro sole addorno.

Beatrice tutta ne l'etterne rote

fissa con li occhi stava; e io in lei

66 le luci fissi, di la su rimote.

Nel suo aspetto tal dentro mi fei,

qual si fe Glauco nel gustar de l'erba

69 che 'l fe consorto in mar de li altri dei.

Trasumanar significar per verba

non si poria; pero l'essemplo basti

72 a cui esperienza grazia serba.

S'i' era sol di me quel che creasti

novellamente, amor che 'l ciel governi,

75 tu 'l sai, che col tuo lume mi levasti.

Quando la rota che tu sempiterni

desiderato, a se mi fece atteso

78 con l'armonia che temperi e discerni,

parvemi tanto allor del cielo acceso

de la fiamma del sol, che pioggia o fiume

81 lago non fece alcun tanto disteso.

La novita del suono e 'l grande lume

di lor cagion m'accesero un disio

84 mai non sentito di cotanto acume.

Ond' ella, che vedea me si com' io,

a quietarmi l'animo commosso,

87 pria ch'io a dimandar, la bocca aprio

I could not bear it long, yet not so brief a time

as not to see it sparking everywhere,

60 like liquid iron flowing from the fire.

Suddenly it seemed a day was added to that day,

as if the One who has the power

63 had adorned the heavens with a second sun.

Beatrice had fixed her eyes

upon the eternal wheels and I now fixed

66 my sight on her, withdrawing it from above.

As I gazed on her, I was changed within,

as Glaucus was on tasting of the grass

69 that made him consort of the gods in the sea.

To soar beyond the human cannot be described

in words. Let the example be enough to one

72 for whom grace holds this experience in store.

Whether I was there in that part only which you

created last is known to you alone, O Love who rule

75 the heavens and drew me up there with your light.

When the heavens you made eternal,

wheeling in desire, caught my attention

78 with the harmony you temper and attune,

then so much of the sky seemed set on fire

by the flaming sun that neither rain nor river

81 ever fed a lake so vast.

The newness of the sound and the bright light

lit in me such keen desire to know their cause

84 as I had never with such sharpness felt before.

And she, who knew me as I knew myself,

to calm my agitated mind

87 before I even had begun to speak, parted her lips

e comincio: "Tu stesso ti fai grosso

col falso imaginar, si che non vedi

90 cio che vedresti se l'avessi scosso.

Tu non se' in terra, s“ come tu credi;

ma folgore, fuggendo il proprio sito,

93 non corse come tu ch'ad esso riedi."

S'io fui del primo dubbio disvestito

per le sorrise parolette brevi,

96 dentro ad un nuovo piu fu' inretito

e dissi: "Gia contento requievi

di grande ammirazion; ma ora ammiro

99 com' io trascenda questi corpi levi."

Ond' ella, appresso d'un pio sospiro,

li occhi drizzo ver' me con quel sembiante

102 che madre fa sovra figlio deliro,

e comincio: "Le cose tutte quante

hanno ordine tra loro, e questo e forma

105 che l'universo a Dio fa simigliante.

Qui veggion l'alte creature l'orma

de l'etterno valore, il qual e fine

108 al quale e fatta la toccata norma.

Ne l'ordine ch'io dico sono accline

tutte nature, per diverse sorti,

111 pi? al principio loro e men vicine;

onde si muovono a diversi porti

per lo gran mar de l'essere, e ciascuna

114 con istinto a lei dato che la porti.

Questi ne porta il foco inver' la luna;

questi ne' cor mortali e permotore;

117 questi la terra in se stringe e aduna;

and said: 'You make yourself dull-witted

with false notions, so that you cannot see

90 what you would understand, had you but cast them off.

'You are not still on earth, as you believe.

Indeed, lightning darting from its source

93 never sped as fast as you return to yours.'

If I was stripped of my earlier confusion

by her brief and smiling words,

96 I was the more entangled in new doubt

and said: 'I was content to be released

from my amazement, but now I am amazed

99 that I can glide through these light bodies.'

Then she, having sighed with pity,

bent her eyes on me with just that look

102 a mother casts on her delirious child,

and said: 'All things created have an order

in themselves, and this begets the form

105 that lets the universe resemble God.

'Here the higher creatures see the imprint

of the eternal Worth, the end

108 for which that pattern was itself set forth.

'In that order, all natures have their bent

according to their different destinies,

111 whether nearer to their source or farther from it.

'They move, therefore, toward different harbors

upon the vastness of the sea of being,

114 each imbued with an instinct that impels it on its course.

'This instinct carries fire toward the moon,

this is the moving force in mortal hearts,

117 this binds the earth to earth and makes it one.

ne pur le creature che son fore

d'intelligenza quest' arco saetta,

120 ma quelle c'hanno intelletto e amore.

La provedenza, che cotanto assetta,

del suo lume fa 'l ciel sempre quieto

123 nel qual si volge quel c'ha maggior fretta;

e ora li, come a sito decreto,

cen porta la virtu di quella corda

126 che cio che scocca drizza in segno lieto.

Vero e che, come forma non s'accorda

molte fiate a l'intenzion de l'arte,

129 perch' a risponder la materia e sorda,

cosi da questo corso si diparte

talor la creatura, c'ha podere

132 di piegar, cosi pinta, in altra parte;

e si come veder si puo cadere

foco di nube, si l'impeto primo

135 l'atterra torto da falso piacere.

Non dei piu ammirar, se bene stimo,

lo tuo salir, se non come d'un rivo

138 se d'alto monte scende giuso ad imo.

Maraviglia sarebbe in te se, privo

d'impedimento, giu ti fossi assiso,

com' a terra quiete in foco vivo."

142 Quinci rivolse inver' lo cielo il viso.

'This bow impels not just created things

that lack intelligence, but also those

120 that have both intellect and love.

'Providence, which regulates all this,

makes with its light forever calm the heaven

123 that contains the one that whirls with greatest speed,

'and there now, as to a place appointed,

the power of that bowstring bears us,

126 aimed, as is all it shoots, at a joyful target.

'It is true that as a work will often fail

to correspond to its intended form, its matter

129 deaf and unresponsive to the craftsman's plan,

'so sometimes a creature, having the capacity

to swerve, will, thus impelled, head off another way,

132 in deviation from the better course

'and, just as sometimes we see fire

falling from a cloud, just so the primal impulse,

135 diverted by false pleasure, turns toward earth.

'If I am correct, you should no more wonder

at your rising than at a stream's descent

138 from a mountain's peak down to its foot.

'It would be as astounding if you, set free

from every hindrance, had remained below,

as if on earth a living flame held still.'

142 Then she turned her face up to the heavens.


1-36. Dante clearly offers these verses as an introduction to the third and final cantica as a whole. So much is dealt with in them, and in precisely such a way as to set Paradiso off from the rest of the poem, that it is perhaps worth considering them as a unit before attempting to come to grips with particular lines. One burden of these remarks (and of the specific glosses that follow them) is that Dante is once again (see, e.g., Purg. XXIV.52-54) playing a dangerous game as he addresses his role as poet. He presents himself, if in hidden ways (in modern political parlance, he "preserves deniability"), as being inspired by God to write this part of the poem (a barely hidden claim in the first two canticles as well). At the same time he allows us to believe, if we are uncomfortable with that claim here, that he is only doing what all poets do, invoking deities for poetic inspiration as has been conventional since Homer's time.

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