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Paradiso: A Verse Translation by Allen Mandelbaum


This brilliant new verse translation by Allen Mandelbaum captures the consummate beauty of the third and last part of Dante's Divine Comedy. The Paradiso is a luminous poem of love and light, of optics, angelology, polemics, prayer, prophecy, and transcendent experience. As Dante ascends to the Celestial Rose, in the tenth and final heaven, all the spectacle and splendor of a great poet's vision now becomes accessible to the modern reader in this highly acclaimed, superb dual language edition. With extensive ...
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This brilliant new verse translation by Allen Mandelbaum captures the consummate beauty of the third and last part of Dante's Divine Comedy. The Paradiso is a luminous poem of love and light, of optics, angelology, polemics, prayer, prophecy, and transcendent experience. As Dante ascends to the Celestial Rose, in the tenth and final heaven, all the spectacle and splendor of a great poet's vision now becomes accessible to the modern reader in this highly acclaimed, superb dual language edition. With extensive notes and commentary.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"The English Dante of choice."--Hugh Kenner.

"Exactly what we have waited for these years, a Dante with clarity, eloquence, terror, and profoundly moving depths."--Robert Fagles, Princeton University.

"Tough and supple, tender and violent . . . vigorous, vernacular . . . Mandelbaum's Dante will stand high among modern translations."--The Christian Science Monitor

"Lovers of the English language will be delighted by this eloquently accomplished enterprise."
--Book Review Digest

Christian Science Monitor
Tough and supple, tender and violent…vigorous, vernacular…Mandelbaum's Dante will stand high among modern translations.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780553212044
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 1/28/1986
  • Series: Classics Series
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Edition description: Bantam Classics Edition
  • Pages: 464
  • Sales rank: 335,939
  • Product dimensions: 4.20 (w) x 6.90 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Dante Alighieri was born in Florence, Italy in 1265. His early poetry falls into the tradition of love poetry that passed from the Provencal to such Italian poets as Guido Cavalcanti, Dante's friend and mentor. Dante's first major work is the Vita Nuova, 1293-1294. This sequence of lyrics, sonnets, and prose narrative describes his love, first earthly, then spiritual, for Beatrice, whom he had first seen as a child of nine, and who had died when Dante was 25. Dante married about 1285, served Florence in battle, and rose to a position of leadership in the bitter factional politics of the city-state. As one of the city's magistrates, he found it necessary to banish leaders of the so-called "Black" faction, and his friend Cavalcanti, who like Dante was a prominent "White." But after the Blacks seized control of Florence in 1301, Dante himself was tried in absentia and was banished from the city on pain of death. He never returned to Florence. We know little about Dante's life in exile. Legend has it that he studied at Paris, but if so, he returned to Italy, for his last years were spent in Verona and Ravenna. In exile he wrote his Convivio, kind of poetic compendium of medieval philosophy, as well as a political treatise, Monarchia. He began his Comedy (later to be called the Divine Comedy) around 1307-1308. On a diplomatic mission to Venice in 1321, Dante fell ill, and returned to Ravenna, where he died.

Allen Mendelbaum's five verse volumes are: Chelmaxions; The Savantasse of Montparnasse; Journeyman; Leaves of Absence; and A Lied of Letterpress. His volumes of verse translation include The Aeneid of Virgil, a University of California Press volume (now available from Bantam) for which he won a National Book Award; the Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradiso volumes of the California Dante (now available from Bantam); The Odyssey of Homer (now available from Bantam); The Metamorphoses of Ovid, a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in poetry; Ovid in Sicily; Selected Poems of Giuseppe Ungaretti; Selected Writings of Salvatore Quasimodo; and David Maria Turoldo. Mandelbaum is co-editor with Robert Richardson Jr. of Three Centuries of American Poetry (Bantam Books) and, with Yehuda Amichai, of the eight volumes of the JPS Jewish Poetry Series. After receiving his Ph.D. from Columbia, he was in the Society of Fellows at Harvard. While chairman of the Ph.D. program in English at the Graduate Center of CUNY, he was a visiting professor at Washington University in St. Louis, and at the universities of Houston, Denver, Colorado, and Purdue. His honorary degrees are from Notre Dame University, Purdue University, the University of Assino, and the University of Torino. He received the Gold Medal of Honor from the city of Florence in 2000, celebrating the 735th anniversary of Dante's birth, the only translator to be so honored; and in 2003 he received the President of Italy's award for translation. He is now Professor of the History of Literary Criticism at the University of Turin and the W.R. Kenan Professor of Humanities at Wake Forest University.

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Read an Excerpt


ILa gloria di colui che tutto move per l'universo penetra, e risplende in una parte piu e meno altrove.
Nel ciel che piu de la sua luce prende4
fu' io, e vidi cose che ridire ne sa ne puo chi di la su discende;
perche appressando se al suo disire,7
nostro intelletto si profonda tanto,
che dietro la memoria non puo ire.
Veramente quant' io del regno santo10
ne la mia mente potei far tesoro,
sara ora materia del mio canto.
O buono Appollo, a l'ultimo lavoro13
fammi del tuo valor si fatto vaso,
come dimandi a dar l'amato alloro.
Infino a qui l'un giogo di Parnaso16
assai mi fu; ma or con amendue m'e uopo intrar ne l'aringo rimaso.
Entra nel petto mio, e spira tue19
si come quando Marsia traesti de la vagina de le membra sue.
O divina virtu, se mi ti presti22
tanto che l'ombra del beato regno segnata nel mio capo io manifesti,
vedra'mi al pie del tuo diletto legno25
venire, e coronarmi de le foglie che la materia e tu mi farai degno.
Si rade volte, padre, se ne coglie28
per triunfare o cesare o poeta,
colpa e vergogna de l'umane voglie,

Proem and Invocation to Apollo. Dante's passing beyond the human, beyond the earth, in heavenward ascent with Beatrice. His wonder. Beatrice on the Empyrean and the order of the universe.

The glory of the One who moves all things permeates the universe and glows in one part more and in another less.
I was within the heaven that receives4
more of His light; and I saw things that he who from that height descends, forgets or can not speak; for nearing its desired end,7
our intellect sinks into an abyss so deep that memory fails to follow it.
Nevertheless, as much as I, within10
my mind, could treasure of the holy kingdom shall now become the matter of my song.
O good Apollo, for this final task make me the vessel of your excellence,
what you, to merit your loved laurel, ask.
Until this point, one of Parnassus' peaks16
sufficed for me; but now I face the test,
the agon that is left; I need both crests.
Enter into my breast; within me breathe19
the very power you made manifest when you drew Marsyas out from his limbs' sheath.
O godly force, if you so lend yourself22
to me, that I might show the shadow of the blessed realm inscribed within my mind,
then you would see me underneath the tree25
you love; there I shall take as crown the leaves of which my theme and you shall make me worthy.
So seldom, father, are those garlands gathered28
for triumph of a ruler or a poet—
a sign of fault or shame in human wills—

che parturir letizia in su la lieta31
delfica deita dovria la fronda peneia, quando alcun di se asseta.
Poca favilla gran fiamma seconda:34
forse di retro a me con miglior voci si preghera perche Cirra risponda.
Surge ai mortali per diverse foci37
la lucerna del mondo; ma da quella che quattro cerchi giugne con tre croci,
con miglior corso e con migliore stella40
esce congiunta, e la mondana cera piu a suo modo tempera e suggella.
Fatto avea di la mane e di qua sera43
tal foce, e quasi tutto era la bianco quello emisperio, e l'altra parte nera,
quando Beatrice in sul sinistro fianco46
vidi rivolta e riguardar nel sole:
aguglia si non li s'affisse unquanco.
E si come secondo raggio suole49
uscir del primo e risalire in suso,
pur come pelegrin che tornar vuole,
cosi de l'atto suo, per li occhi infuso52
ne l'imagine mia, il mio si fece,
e fissi li occhi al sole oltre nostr' uso.
Molto e licito la, che qui non lece55
a le nostre virtu, merce del loco fatto per proprio de l'umana spece.
Io nol soffersi molto, ne si poco,58
ch'io nol vedessi sfavillar dintorno,
com' ferro che bogliente esce del foco;
e di subito parve giorno a giorno61
essere aggiunto, come quei che puote avesse il ciel d'un altro sole addorno.
Beatrice tutta ne l'etterne rote64
fissa con li occhi stava; e io in lei le luci fissi, di la su rimote.
Nel suo aspetto tal dentro mi fei,67
qual si fe Glauco nel gustar de l'erba che 'l fe consorto in mar de li altri dei.

that when Peneian branches can incite31
someone to long and thirst for them, delight must fill the happy Delphic deity.
Great fire can follow a small spark: there may34
be better voices after me to pray to Cyrrha's god for aid--that he may answer.
The lantern of the world approaches mortals37
by varied paths: but on that way which links four circles with three crosses, it emerges joined to a better constellation and40
along a better course, and it can temper and stamp the world's wax more in its own manner.
Its entry from that point of the horizon43
brought morning there and evening here;
almost all of that hemisphere was white--while ours was dark--when I saw Beatrice turn round46
and left, that she might see the sun: no eagle has ever stared so steadily at it.
And as a second ray will issue from49
the first and reascend, much like a pilgrim who seeks his home again, so on her action,
fed by my eyes to my imagination,52
my action drew, and on the sun I set my sight more than we usually do.
More is permitted to our powers there55
than is permitted here, by virtue of that place, made for mankind as its true home.
I did not bear it long, but not so briefly58
as not to see it sparkling round about,
like molten iron emerging from the fire;
and suddenly it seemed that day had been61
added to day, as if the One who can had graced the heavens with a second sun.
The eyes of Beatrice were all intent64
on the eternal circles; from the sun,
I turned aside: I set my eyes on her.
In watching her, within me I was changed67
as Glaucus changed, tasting the herb that made him a companion of the other sea gods.

Trasumanar significar per verba70
non si poria; pero l'essemplo basti a cui esperienza grazia serba.
S'i' era sol di me quel che creasti73
novellamente, amor che 'l ciel governi,
tu 'l sai, che col tuo lume mi levasti.
Quando la rota che tu sempiterni76
desiderato, a se mi fece atteso con l'armonia che temperi e discerni,
parvemi tanto allor del cielo acceso79
de la fiamma del sol, che pioggia o fiume lago non fece alcun tanto disteso.
La novita del suono e 'l grande lume82
di lor cagion m'accesero un disio mai non sentito di cotanto acume.
Ond' ella, che vedea me si com' io,85
a quietarmi l'animo commosso,
pria ch'io a dimandar, la bocca aprio e comincio: "Tu stesso ti fai grosso88
col falso imaginar, si che non vedi cio che vedresti se l'avessi scosso.
Tu non se' in terra, si come tu credi;91
ma folgore, fuggendo il proprio sito,
non corse come tu ch'ad esso riedi.
"S'io fui del primo dubbio disvestito94
per le sorrise parolette brevi,
dentro ad un nuovo piu fu' inretitoe dissi: "Gia contento requievi97
di grande ammirazion; ma ora ammiro com' io trascenda questi corpi levi.
"Ond' ella, appresso d'un pio sospiro,100
li occhi drizzo ver' me con quel sembiante che madre fa sovra figlio deliro,
e comincio: "Le cose tutte quante103
hanno ordine tra loro, e questo e forma che l'universo a Dio fa simigliante.
Qui veggion l'alte creature l'orma106
de l'etterno valore, il qual e fine al quale e fatta la toccata norma.

Passing beyond the human cannot be70
worded: let Glaucus serve as simile—
until grace grant you the experience.
Whether I only was the part of me73
that You created last, You—governing the heavens--know: it was Your light that raised me.
When that wheel which You make eternal through76
the heavens' longing for You drew me with the harmony You temper and distinguish,
the fire of the sun then seemed to me79
to kindle so much of the sky, that rain or river never formed so broad a lake.
The newness of the sound and the great light82
incited me to learn their cause--I was more keen than I had ever been before.
And she who read me as I read myself,85
to quiet the commotion in my mind,
opened her lips before I opened mine to ask, and she began: "You make yourself88
obtuse with false imagining; you can not see what you would see if you dispelled it.
You are not on the earth as you believe;91
but lightning, flying from its own abode,
is less swift than you are, returning home.
"While I was freed from my first doubt by these94
brief words she smiled to me, I was yet caught in new perplexity. I said: "I was content already; after such great wonder,97
I rested. But again I wonder how my body rises past these lighter bodies.
"At which, after a sigh of pity, she100
settled her eyes on me with the same look a mother casts upon a raving child,
and she began: "All things, among themselves,103
possess an order; and this order is the form that makes the universe like God.
Here do the higher beings see the imprint106
of the Eternal Worth, which is the end to which the pattern I have mentioned tends.

Ne l'ordine ch'io dico sono accline109
tutte nature, per diverse sorti,
piu al principio loro e men vicine;
onde si muovono a diversi porti112
per lo gran mar de l'essere, e ciascuna con istinto a lei dato che la porti.
Questi ne porta il foco inver' la luna;115
questi ne' cor mortali e permotore;
questi la terra in se stringe e aduna;
ne pur le creature che son fore118
d'intelligenza quest' arco saetta,
ma quelle c'hanno intelletto e amore.
La provedenza, che cotanto assetta,121
del suo lume fa 'l ciel sempre quieto nel qual si volge quel c'ha maggior fretta;
e ora li, come a sito decreto,124
cen porta la virtu di quella corda che cio che scocca drizza in segno lieto.
Vero e che, come forma non s'accorda127
molte fiate a l'intenzion de l'arte,
perch' a risponder la materia e sorda,
cosi da qesto corso si diparte130
talor la creatura, c'ha podere di piegar, cosi pinta, in altra parte;
e si come veder si puo cadere133
foco di nube, si l'impeto primo l'atterra torto da falso piacere.
Non dei piu ammirar, se bene stimo,136
lo tuo salir, se non come d'un rivo se d'alto monte scende giuso ad imo.
Maraviglia sarebbe in te se, privo139
d'impedimento, giu ti fossi assiso,
com' a terra quiete in foco vivo."
Quinci rivolse inver' lo cielo il viso.142

Within that order, every nature has109
its bent, according to a different station,
nearer or less near to its origin.
Therefore, these natures move to different ports112
across the mighty sea of being, each given the impulse that will bear it on.
This impulse carries fire to the moon:115
this is the motive force in mortal creatures:
this binds the earth together, makes it one.
Not only does the shaft shot from this bow118
strike creatures lacking intellect, but those who have intelligence, and who can love.
The Providence that has arrayed all this121
forever quiets--with Its light--that heaven in which the swiftest of the spheres revolves;
to there, as toward a destined place, we now124
are carried by the power of the bow that always aims its shaft at a glad mark.
Yet it is true that, even as a shape127
may, often, not accord with art's intent,
since matter may be unresponsive, deaf,
so, from this course, the creature strays at times130
because he has the power, once impelled,
to swerve elsewhere; as lightning from a cloud is seen to fall, so does the first impulse,133
when man has been diverted by false pleasure,
turn him toward earth. You should--if I am right—
not feel more marvel at your climbing than136
you would were you considering a stream that from a mountain's height falls to its base.
It would be cause for wonder in you if,139
no longer hindered, you remained below,
as if, on earth, a living flame stood still."
Then she again turned her gaze heavenward. 142

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