The Inferno (John Ciardi Translation)

Overview

Ciardi's translation of the magnificent story of a man's way through the infinite torment of hell in his search for paradise.

Dante Alighieri's poetic masterpiece, The Divine Comedy, is a moving human drama, an unforgettable visionary journey through the infinite torment of Hell, up the arduous slopes of Purgatory, and on to the glorious realm of Paradise-the sphere of universal harmony and eternal salvation.

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The Inferno (John Ciardi Translation)

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Overview

Ciardi's translation of the magnificent story of a man's way through the infinite torment of hell in his search for paradise.

Dante Alighieri's poetic masterpiece, The Divine Comedy, is a moving human drama, an unforgettable visionary journey through the infinite torment of Hell, up the arduous slopes of Purgatory, and on to the glorious realm of Paradise-the sphere of universal harmony and eternal salvation.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780451627094
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 8/1/1954
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Pages: 1
  • Product dimensions: 7.00 (w) x 5.00 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Dante Alighieri was considered Italy's greatest poet. He is the author of the three canticles, The Inferno, The Purgatorio, and The Paradiso, along with La Vita Nuova. He died in 1321.

John Ciardi was a distinguished poet and professor, having taught at Harvard and Rutgers universities, and is a poetry editor of The Saturday Review. He was a winner of the Harriet Monroe Memorial Award and the Prix de Rome.

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Read an Excerpt

INFERNO I OUTLINE 1–9 Dante, having lost his way, in a dark wood 10–21hint of dawn: the sun on a mountaintop 22–27simile: survivor of shipwreck looking back at sea 28–36journey resumed; ascending the slope; a leopard 37–43dawn and reassurance 44–54a lion renews his fear; a she-wolf drives him back 55–60simile: merchant (or gambler?) losing everything 61–66apparition (of Virgil) and Dante’s first words 67–75Virgil identifies himself 76–78his pointed question to Dante 79–90Dante’s recognition, praise of Virgil; plea for aid 91–100Virgil’s warning: power of the she-wolf 101–111Virgil’s prophecy of the hound that will defeat her 112–120Virgil will guide Dante through two realms to a third 121–129Virgil: a second guide will take him to those in bliss, since he is not allowed into that realm 130–135Dante agrees to be led through the first two realms 136the two set out

Inferno I Nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita mi ritrovai per una selva oscura, 3ché la diritta via era smarrita.
Ahi quanto a dir qual era è cosa dura esta selva selvaggia e aspra e forte 6che nel pensier rinova la paura!

Tant’ è amara che poco è più morte; ma per trattar del ben ch’i’ vi trovai, 9dirò de l’altre cose ch’i’ v’ho scorte.

Io non so ben ridir com’ i’ v’intrai, tant’ era pien di sonno a quel punto 12che la verace via abbandonai.
Ma poi ch’i’ fui al piè d’un colle giunto, là dove terminava quella valle 15che m’avea dipaura il cor compunto,
guardai in alto e vidi le sue spalle vestite già de’ raggi del pianeta 18che mena dritto altrui per ogne calle.
Allor fu la paura un poco queta, che nel lago del cor m’era durata 21la notte ch’i’ passai con tanta pieta.
E come quei che con lena affannata, uscito fuor del pelago a la riva, 24si volge a l’acqua perigliosa e guata,
così l’animo mio, ch’ancor fuggiva, si volse a retro a rimirar lo passo 27che non lasciò già mai persona viva.

Midway in the journey of our life I came to myself in a dark wood, 3for the straight way was lost.

Ah, how hard it is to tell the nature of that wood, savage, dense and harsh— 6the very thought of it renews my fear!

It is so bitter death is hardly more so. But to set forth the good I found 9I will recount the other things I saw.
How I came there I cannot really tell, I was so full of sleep 12when I forsook the one true way.
But when I reached the foot of a hill, there where the valley ended 15that had pierced my heart with fear,
looking up, I saw its shoulders arrayed in the first light of the planet 18that leads men straight, no matter what their road.

Then the fear that had endured in the lake of my heart, all the night 21I spent in such distress, was calmed.

And as one who, with laboring breath, has escaped from the deep to the shore 24turns and looks back at the perilous waters,so my mind, still in flight, turned back to look once more upon the pass 27no mortal being ever left alive. Poi ch’èi posato un poco il corpo lasso, ripresi via per la piaggia diserta, 30sì che ’l piè fermo sempre era ’l più basso.

Ed ecco, quasi al cominciar de l’erta, una lonza leggiera e presta molto, 33che di pel macolato era coverta;
e non mi si partia dinanzi al volto, anzi ’mpediva tanto il mio cammino, 36ch’i’ fui per ritornar più volte vòlto.
Temp’ era dal principio del mattino, e ’l sol montava ’n sù con quelle stelle 39ch’eran con lui quando l’amor divino
mosse di prima quelle cose belle; sì ch’a bene sperar m’era cagione 42di quella fiera a la gaetta pelle
l’ora del tempo e la dolce stagione; ma non sì che paura non mi desse 45la vista che m’apparve d’un leone.
Questi parea che contra me venisse con la test’ alta e con rabbiosa fame, 48sì che parea che l’aere ne tremesse.
Ed una lupa, che di tutte brame sembiava carca ne la sua magrezza, 51e molte genti fé già viver grame,
questa mi porse tanto di gravezza con la paura ch’uscia di sua vista, 54ch’io perdei la speranza de l’altezza.
E qual è quei che volontieri acquista, e giugne ’l tempo che perder lo face, 57che ’n tutti suoi pensier piange e s’attrista; After I rested my wearied flesh a while, I took my way again along the desert slope, 30my firm foot always lower than the other.

But now, near the beginning of the steep, a leopard light and swift 33and covered with a spotted pelt
refused to back away from me but so impeded, barred the way, 36that many times I turned to go back down.

It was the hour of morning, when the sun mounts with those stars 39that shone with it when God’s own love
first set in motion those fair things, so that, despite that beast with gaudy fur, 42I still could hope for good, encouragedby the hour of the day and the sweet season, only to be struck by fear 45when I beheld a lion in my way.

He seemed about to pounce— his head held high and furious with hunger— 48so that the air appeared to tremble at him.

And then a she-wolf who, all hide and bones, seemed charged with all the appetites 51that have made many live in wretchednessso weighed my spirits down with terror, which welled up at the sight of her, 54that I lost hope of making the ascent.

And like one who rejoices in his gains but when the time comes and he loses, 57turns all his thought to sadness and lament, tal mi fece la bestia sanza pace, che, venendomi ’ncontro, a poco a poco 60mi ripigneva là dove ’l sol tace.

Mentre ch’i’ rovinava in basso loco, dinanzi a li occhi mi si fu offerto 63chi per lungo silenzio parea fioco.
Quando vidi costui nel gran diserto, “Miserere di me,” gridai a lui, 66“qual che tu sii, od ombra od omo certo!”
Rispuosemi: “Non omo, omo già fui, e li parenti miei furon lombardi, 69mantoani per patrïa ambedui.
Nacqui sub Iulio, ancor che fosse tardi, e vissi a Roma sotto ’l buono Augusto 72nel tempo de li dèi falsi e bugiardi.

Poeta fui, e cantai di quel giusto figliuol d’Anchise che venne di Troia, 75poi che ’l superbo Ilïón fu combusto.
Ma tu perché ritorni a tanta noia? perché non sali il dilettoso monte 78ch’è principio e cagion di tutta goia?”
“Or se’ tu quel Virgilio e quella fonte che spandi di parlar sì largo fiume?” 81rispuos’ io lui con vergognosa fronte.

“O de li altri poeti onore e lume, vagliami ’l lungo studio e ’l grande amore 84che m’ha fatto cercar lo tuo volume.

Tu se’ lo mio maestro e ’l mio autore, tu se’ solo colui da cu’ io tolsi 87lo bello stilo che m’ha fatto onore. such did the restless beast make me— coming against me, step by step, 60it drove me down to where the sun is silent.

While I was fleeing to a lower place, before my eyes a figure showed, 63faint, in the wide silence.

When I saw him in that vast desert, ‘Have mercy on me, whatever you are,’ 66I cried, ‘whether shade or living man!’

He answered: ‘Not a man, though once I was. My parents were from Lombardy— 69Mantua was their homeland.

‘I was born sub Julio, though late in his time, and lived at Rome, under good Augustus 72in an age of false and lying gods.

‘I was a poet and I sang the just son of Anchises come from Troy 75after proud Ilium was put to flame.

‘But you, why are you turning back to misery? Why do you not climb the peak that gives delight, 78origin and cause of every joy?’

‘Are you then Virgil, the fountainhead that pours so full a stream of speech?’ 81I answered him, my head bent low in shame.

‘O glory and light of all other poets, let my long study and great love avail 84that made me delve so deep into your volume.

‘You are my teacher and my author. You are the one from whom alone I took 87the noble style that has brought me honor. Vedi la bestia per cu’ io mi volsi; aiutami da lei, famoso saggio, 90ch’ella mi fa tremar le vene e i polsi.”

“A te convien tenere altro vïaggio,” rispuose, poi che lagrimar mi vide, 93“se vuo’ campar d’esto loco selvaggio;ché questa bestia, per la qual tu gride, non lascia altrui passar per la sua via, 96ma tanto lo ’mpedisce che l’uccide;e ha natura sì malvagia e ria, che mai non empie la bramosa voglia, 99e dopo ’l pasto ha più fame che pria.

Molti son li animali a cui s’ammoglia, e più saranno ancora, infin che ’l veltro 102verrà, che la farà morir con doglia.

Questi non ciberà terra né peltro, ma sapïenza, amore e virtute, 105e sua nazion sarà tra feltro e feltro.
Di quella umile Italia fia salute per cui morì la vergine Cammilla, 108Eurialo e Turno e Niso di ferute.
Questi la caccerà per ogne villa, fin che l’avrà rimessa ne lo ’nferno, 111là onde ’nvidia prima dipartilla.
Ond’ io per lo tuo me’ penso e discerno che tu mi segui, e io sarò tua guida, 114e trarrotti di qui per loco etterno;ove udirai le disperate strida, vedrai li antichi spiriti dolenti, 117ch’a la seconda morte ciascun grida;

‘See the beast that forced me to turn back. Save me from her, famous sage— 90she makes my veins and pulses tremble.’

‘It is another path that you must follow,’ he answered, when he saw me weeping, 93‘if you would flee this wild and savage place.

‘For the beast that moves you to cry out lets no man pass her way, 96but so besets him that she slays him.

‘Her nature is so vicious and malign her greedy appetite is never sated— 99after she feeds she is hungrier than ever.

‘Many are the creatures that she mates with, and there will yet be more, until the hound 102shall come who’ll make her die in pain.

‘He shall not feed on lands or lucre but on wisdom, love, and power. 105Between felt and felt shall be his birth.

‘He shall be the salvation of low-lying Italy, for which maiden Camilla, Euryalus, 108Turnus, and Nisus died of their wounds.

‘He shall hunt the beast through every town till he has sent her back to Hell 111whence primal envy set her loose.

‘Therefore, for your sake, I think it wise you follow me: I will be your guide, 114leading you, from here, through an eternal place‘where you shall hear despairing cries and see those ancient souls in pain 117as they bewail their second death. e vederai color che son contenti nel foco, perché speran di venire 120quando che sia a le beate genti.

A le quai poi se tu vorrai salire, anima fia a ciò più di me degna: 123con lei ti lascerò nel mio partire;
ché quello imperador che là sù regna, perch’ i’ fu’ ribellante a la sua legge, 126non vuol che ’n sua città per me si vegna.

In tutte parti impera e quivi regge; quivi è la sua città e l’alto seggio: 129oh felice colui cu’ ivi elegge!”
E io a lui: “Poeta, io ti richeggio per quello Dio che tu non conoscesti, 132a ciò ch’io fugga questo male e peggio,che tu mi meni là dov’ or dicesti, sì ch’io veggia la porta di san Pietro e color cui tu fai cotanto mesti.” 136Allor si mosse, e io li tenni dietro.

‘Then you will see the ones who are content to burn because they hope to come, 120whenever it may be, among the blessed.

‘Should you desire to ascend to these, you’ll find a soul more fit to lead than I: 123I’ll leave you in her care when I depart.

‘For the Emperor who has his seat on high wills not, because I was a rebel to His law, 126that I should make my way into His city.

‘In every part He reigns and there He rules. There is His city and His lofty seat. 129Happy the one whom He elects to be there!’

And I answered: ‘Poet, I entreat you by the God you did not know, 132so that I may escape this harm and worse,

‘lead me to the realms you’ve just described that I may see Saint Peter’s gate and those you tell me are so sorrowful.’ 136Then he set out and I came on behind him.

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Table of Contents

Introduction IX
Acknowledgments XIX
The Plan of Dante's Hell XXI
Inferno I
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 61 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 29, 2005

    great transltion

    I have wanted to read the Inferno on my own for quite a while. However, not reading it in an English class somewhat concerned me. I thought that perhaps not having a professor explaining all of the symbolism and historical background might cheat me of the Dantean experience. Ciardi's translation, summary at the beggining of each canto, and notes on the text at the end of the canto were amazing! But let's not forget the genius that was Dante here. I thought that his work was highly creative and imaginative. I would not only recommend this to someone who wishes to read a great classic, (that everyong one should atleast be aware of)but to those that simple like horror novles.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 23, 2007

    The good, the bad, and the poorly told

    I had rather mixed feelings about this book. On the one hand the actual plot is fascinating. One man¿s chance to walk through hell and report what it¿s like. This is what actually drew me to the book in the first place. I also liked Dante¿s interpretations of the punishments of hell, with each punishment being symbolic of the actual offense committed: poetic justice. However, I didn¿t care for the manner in which Dante narrated the story. When he is in Limbo, he describes how the great poets of the world accepted him into their numbers, and he describes how angels in heaven weep for him so that they sent him a guide to bring him safely through hell. This undertone, which is found throughout the novel, I think make Dante sound rather arrogant and preachy. This ¿holier than tho¿ attitude, I find, distracts from the story. Also, while I like Dante¿s use of poetic justice, I thought he might have played down hell. Hell is supposed to be a place of eternal torment, but for many of the punishments he lists I found myself thinking, ¿Yeah that would suck for the first couple decades¿but then you¿d get used to it.¿ Being devoured by the Cerberus on level 3 would be torture, but you have an eternity of it ahead: you would learn to live with it. Even all the way down on level 9 where you are frozen in ice for committing treason. You would eventually become accustomed to the cold. In conclusion, I would say that The Inferno by Dante is a good story told poorly. It has no real climax, no conflict to speak of, it seems to contradict itself in being something interesting portrayed in an uninteresting way. I¿m afraid I must admit that I did not enjoy reading The Inferno.

    1 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 3, 2003

    John Ciardi's translation is by far the best!

    Virgil guides Dante through the torturing of Hell. Dante gives his readers a great and scary vision through the eternal misery of Hell.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 26, 2011

    Love this book

    This book is one of my favorites, the translation is excellent especially if you are a first time reader of this book. Very easy to read and understand.

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  • Posted July 5, 2011

    O

    Oh my gosh sooo awsome

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  • Posted January 27, 2011

    leave a better sample

    Sample review gives you no idea how the book is laid out, just talks about why he translates the way he does, and creds to his family. No example of the actual text of the story which is what lead me to purchase from another author.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 23, 2010

    My son loves it.

    My fifteen year old son bought this to read for pleasure, and he enjoyed it very much.

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  • Posted September 8, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    The Inferno - a look at what sin does to the soul, and how to escape hell.

    Dante's work shows an individual who has gotten lost in his ego, selfishness, isolation, and loneliness, and has been given someone to help in out of his situation. The way is through Hell, in which one must see what sin is, and what it does to the soul. The soul is meant to fly, be free, and joyful, and God is the hub of the wheel to which all are connected. In this poetic work, Dante takes us to see how narrow the soul is when it shrinks into it's own ego, and feels independent of God. We see in the climax a pathetic figure of Satan. One can now make his/her own choice which roads in life one will take. United in God, or separated and isolated, and cold. A wonderful, thought-provoking read.

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  • Posted December 7, 2008

    The Inferno: An allegorical masterpiece.

    Dante's epic begins with a colorful story of how he has became lost from the True Way, and now he finds himself in a dark woods. But as the sun comes out, he feels rejuvenated and decides to travel to the Mount of Joy to get back on the Path. But he is blocked, and the shade of Virgil comes to lead him, through Hell, to get back to the Path. Then, Dante proceeds to explain in detail his grim travels through Hell, which I believe is beautiful. I do not agree in all Dante says, but the story of him and Virgil traveling through the levels of hell and Dante's learning of God's justice and Virgil's representation of Human reason is awe inspiring. With unique twists, Dante depicts Hell in vivid description, often with great details on the punishments the condemned have to go through. And through this, Dante is able to construct much tension between his character's pity and how Virgil says he should act. The catholic traditional theology and the heavy use of greco-roman classical mythology throughout the epic is often overwhelming, but it best depicts and explains the wildly structured and geographical Hell Dante portrays. One thing that drove me crazy was the climax, where Dante on his journey meets Lucifer. I believe he intentionally wrote it to be anticlimactic, but it kind of killed my imagination, no matter how 'accurate' it is. This book was a very interesting read to me; thrilling as much as historical. I enjoyed it, and any one who also enjoys reading epic-like stories of classical mythology, biblical stories, or stories like Beowulf will enjoy this. It was a great read, and relatively easy to understand, too. My next step will probably to be to read the next book in the series, Purgatorio, and then maybe Paradiso.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 9, 2008

    What a trip.

    This book was really a trip. Since I had to read it in english class, I decided to give this a chance. I would have never picked up this book for fun. I loved this book. It was descriptive throughtout the whole story, telling us readers about a trip through Hell. I loved the details of the bloody people and what Satan looked like, from Dante's point of view. He put people I knew from previous stories in Hell. I liked knowing who people were and what they did. I recommend this to college level students, otherwise I recommend this to anyone.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 25, 2007

    Creative

    Very clear, easy to understand, outstanding book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 4, 2004

    A Book That Makes You Think

    A great book is one that makes you think about what you've read way after you've read it. I have just finished reading this one today and imagine it will have that effect on me. It is written telling of the times that Dante was living in about the moral decay of the society that he was a part of. It takes a brief look at him leaving the path of Faith in the beginning and seeing the torment of others who left that path and the specific torture they were enduring as a result of that. Masterfully written and still holds up after roughly 700 years.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 1, 2004

    The inferno is WONDERFUL!!!

    The Iferno is a work of art that deserves to be shown in the highest of respects. It is a controversial book and is rightfully so.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 3, 2003

    AMAZING!!!

    I was forced to read this book as part of my high school literature class, and Thank you very much. This is by far the best book I've ever read, not only is the story very interesting, but the symbolism Dante uses is amazing. Don't just read the text, read all the footnotes they are very interesting and really help to show the genius of Dante.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 3, 2002

    Incredible

    We have a set of these books at our school and I have yet to read them. I have read the original transcription and Inferno is THE best book I have ever read. Dante never leaves out a detail and describes everything in splendor. I dont believe I will ever read another book that will compare to the exceptionalism that is written by Dante.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 25, 2002

    The Best

    this was by far the best book ever written

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 28, 2002

    Easy to read translation

    Im a 14 year old boy who can read this version easily. Includes overview of the chapter you are reading and translations of confusing parts.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 24, 2001

    The Inferno is a literary masterpiece!

    Dante Alighieri has insured his place as one of the greatest poets of all time. The Inferno combines many political ideas of the renaissance with christian spirituality making for a great book. John Ciardi adds his brilliance with foot notes and chapter summaries that make it easy for anyone to understand. Even a 15 year old like me can appreciate the masterpiece that is the Inferno.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 27, 2001

    Extraordinary!!!

    Dante's first volume of his Divine Comedy is quite possibly the greatest work of poetry ever commited to paper. I came across 'The Inferno' in a used bookstore. I had heard of it, but didn't know what it was about. I read the synopsis on the back and was compelled to buy it. Best $1.50 I ever spent. Not only is the writing gorgeous, but the story is fascinating as well. The story is about the poets Virgil and Dante as they journey through Hell. Dante encounters enemies, legends, and even mentors from his native Florence in the mass of sinners found in Hades. These meeting are amazing examples of Dante's religious and political views. Also, John Ciardi's translation is wonderful. Ciardi explains the bountiful amount of archaic and obscure references found throughout the text with great detail at the end of each Canto. I appreciated this small Mideivel History lesson. It made reading this book all the more enjoyable. Hope you like it!!!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 26, 2000

    BEST TRANSLATION!

    This is the best translation of Inferno I have seen. One of few that actually follows the aba-cdc form.

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