Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s Inferno Translation

Nineteenth century poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow translates Inferno, featured in this 2013 book. More information about this translation can be found here.

UCLA’s Dante in the Americas

“The literary appropriation of Dante over the last century has been enormous. His influence has been front and center in all major modern literary traditions—from T.S. Eliot to William Butler Yeats, from Albert Camus to Jean-Paul Sartre, from Jorge Luis Borges to Derek Walcott, from Giorgio Bassani to Giuseppe Ungaretti. Why such fascination? What are the textual characteristics of Dante’s Commedia that make it an ideal vehicle for literary appropriation, thereby allowing it to enjoy a sustained cultural afterlife? What, moreover, are the more accidental factors (e.g., taste, world view, political agenda, religious, and mystical convictions) which account for the popularity of Dante—after 300 years of neglect during which the Florentine poet was relegated to the shadows of Petrarch and his works—among artists, novelists, poets, playwrights, and cinematographers? This symposium, co-organized by Professor Massimo Ciavolella (Italian, UCLA), Professor Efraín Kristal (Comparative Literature, UCLA), and Heather Sottong (Italian, UCLA), considers these questions, concentrating on Dante’s influence in North America and especially in Latin America.”   —UCLA Center for Medieval & Renaissance Studies, 2011

“Un correttore molto scrupoloso: Capitini lettore di Dante (e di Contini)”

un-correttore-molto-scrupoloso-capitini-lettore-di-dante-2021“Risale all’autunno del 1935 nella città di Perugia, la nascita dell’amicizia tra il filosofo  Aldo Capitini e il filologo Gianfranco Contini. Quest’ultimo era approdato nel capoluogo umbro come titolare della cattedra di lettere al liceo classico ‘Annibale Mariotti’. Nel corso della loro frequentazione, protrattasi lungo l’anno scolastico 1936-37, molti saranno stati gli argomenti di conversazione tra i due, non ultimo Dante Alighieri.

“Al sommo poeta Capitini aveva dedicato nel 1927 la tesina intitolata Sulla Vita Nuova di Dante nell’Ottocento in Italia,  e l’anno successivo un capitolo della tesi di laurea Realismo e serenità in alcuni poeti italiani (Iacopone, Dante, Poliziano, Foscolo, Leopardi). Primo abbozzo, sotto la guida di Attilio Momigliano, presso l’Ateneo di Pisa; mentre Contini, da parte sua, si avviava a pubblicare il primo fondamentale contributo agli studi danteschi con l’edizione delle Rime.” [. . .]    –Carlo Pulsoni, European Insula, January 21, 2021.

 

Jorge Luis Borges, “Paradiso, XXXI, 108” in Dreamtigers

jorge-luis-borges-paradiso-xxxi“Beside a road there is a stone face and an inscription that says, ‘The True Portrait of the Holy Face of the God of Jaen.’ If we truly knew what it was like, the key to the parables would be ours and we would know whether the son of the carpenter was also the Son of God.

“Paul saw it as a light that struck him to the ground; John, as the sun when it shines in all its strength; Teresa de Jesus saw it many times, bathed in tranquil light, yet she was never sure of the color of His eyes.

“We lost those features, as one may lose a magic number made up of the usual ciphers, as one loses an image in a kaleidoscope, forever. We may see them and know them not. The profile of a Jew in the subway is perhaps the profile of Christ; perhaps the hands that give us our change at a ticket window duplicate the ones some soldier nailed one day to the cross.

Perhaps a feature of the crucified face lurks in every mirror; perhaps the face died, was erased, so that God may be all of us.” [. . .]    –Jorge Luis Borges, The Floating Library, September 15, 2008.

Jorge Luis Borges, “Inferno, I, 32” in Dreamtigers

jorge-luis-borges-inferno-i-32-2020“From the twilight of day till the twilight of evening, a leopard, in the last years of the thirteenth century, would see some wooden planks, some vertical iron bars, men and women who changed, a wall and perhaps a stone gutter filled with dry leaves. He did not know, could not know, that he longed for love and cruelty and the hot pleasure of tearing things to pieces and the wind carrying the scent of a deer, but something suffocated and rebelled within him and God spoke to him in a dream: ‘You live and will die in this prison so that a man I know of may see you a certain number of times and not forget you and place your figure and symbol in a poem which has its precise place in the scheme of the universe. You suffer captivity, but you will have given a word to the poem.’ God, in the dream, illumined the animal’s brutishness and the animal understood these reasons and accepted his destiny, but, when he awoke, there was in him only an obscure resignation, a valorous ignorance, for the machinery of the world is much too complex for the simplicity of a beast.

“Years later, Dante was dying in Ravenna, as unjustified and as lonely as any other man. In a dream, God declared to him the secret purpose of his life and work; Dante, in wonderment, knew at last who and what he was and blessed the bitterness of his life. Tradition relates that, upon waking, he felt that he had received and lost an infinite thing, something that he would not be able to recuperate or even glimpse, for the machinery of the world is much too complex for the simplicity of men.” [. . .]    — Jorge Luis Borges, The Floating Library, July 28, 2008.

Final line of C.S. Lewis’s A Grief Observed

“In the last chapter of A Grief Observed, Lewis admits that grief is, ‘like a long valley, a winding valley where any bend may reveal a totally new landscape.’ If you’ve grieved over someone’s death, you know the image Lewis is casting. Happiness almost feels a little haunted, but time evaporates the wetness from some of the tears, albeit gradual, ‘like the warming of a room or the coming of daylight,’ says Lewis.

[. . .]

The end is akin to the beginning of A Grief Observed, if only in the questions it doesn’t answer and the doubts that are still raised as a result of the horrible occurrences of this world. In the end, Lewis knows that God is more mystery than reason, and his reliance on Him, and the hope in the resurrection of the dead, is wrapped in a faith in a God who can be found.

‘Poi si torno all’ eternal fontana,’ ends the book. It is from Dante. Beatrice turns to the eternal fountain and keeps walking. Lewis doesn’t dismiss his grief, but he is more at peace with God at the end of his notes, and, like Joy’s last words to the chaplain, Lewis is at peace with God.”    –Zach Kincaid, cslewis.com, February 29, 2012

Contributed by Daniel Christian

Gathered at the Edge of Light Exhibition – Michael Mazur

“Albert Merola Gallery at 424 Commercial St. [Provincetown, Mass.] is happy to present its first exhibition of 2020 from June 12 to July 1 — paintings by Michael Mazur. The exhibition’s title, Gathered at the Edge of Light, comes from a passage early on in Dante’s Inferno. It is appropriate in many ways, not least of which is that Mazur deeply studied Dante’s masterwork, and had a deep love of all things Italian. One of his major accomplishments was the epic illustration of the Inferno. He made drawings, monoprints, and a complete suite of etchings, illustrating the story of Dante and Virgil’s journey through Hell. This accompanied the translation done by Robert Pinsky, a United States Poet Laureate and dear friend of Michael and Gail Mazur.”    —Wicked Local, June 10, 2020

See our previous post on Mazur’s work here.

Dante Micheaux wins 2019 Four Quartets Poetry Prize for Circus

“Congratulations to Dante Micheaux who has been awarded the prestigious Four Quartets Poetry Prize for his 2018 collection, Circus.

[. . .]

“Circus was selected as the winner by judges Rowan Ricardo Phillips, Carmen Giménez Smith, and Rosanna Warren, whose citation reads: ‘How right that this poet’s first name should be Dante. For his Circus is a Comedy: a savage comedy, lacerating dialects, fingering wounds, looking for loves right and wrong in the crevices of history and of humiliated bodes. And yet, and yet. His language exults, triumphs, and freely rummages in the treasuries of the Bible, Baudelaire, Whitman, Eliot, Baraka, and Mahalia Jackson, taking what it needs, making it his sovereign own, a wrested blessing. Congratulations, Dante Micheaux, on your astonishing Circus.'”   — Dan Sheehan, Lit Hub (May 1, 2019)

Ocean Vuong, “Seventh Circle of Earth” (2016)

“I wrote ‘Seventh Circle of Earth’ [from Vuong’s 2016 collection Night Sky with Exit Wounds] shortly after hearing the news of two gay men being murdered by immolation in Dallas, TX. I originally wrote the poem in tercets, echoing Dante’s terza rima format. In the Inferno, the stanzas work as a network of rooms the speaker moves through as he descends through the circles of hell. In ‘Seventh Circle of Earth,’ however, this grouping felt off, even fraudulent, to me. A persona poem at its core, it takes on the voice of one of the men speaking to his partner. And in the midst of that fraught position, a poem in tercets, or, in other words, a ‘traditional’ poem, felt like a diluted, forced recasting of a horrific event. I ultimately abandoned the poem.

“It was not until three years later, while reading a critical work on violence and scholarship, did I see, more clearly, the footnotes on the bottom of the page. I found myself slipping right to the notes as I progressed, reading them first. They possessed, in that reading, an urgency that began to stitch itself into a fabric of broken utterances fused together by parataxis. It was, in a way, found poetry. That gave me the idea to re-work ‘Seventh Circle of Earth’ into a piece written entirely in the footnote. This time, the vast and utter emptiness one confronts on the page felt more faithful to the violent erasure of the two murdered men. It felt right to begin the poem with its own vanishing.” [. . .]  — Ocean Vuong on “Seventh Circle of Earth” for Poetry School

Read the rest of Vuong’s comments and the poem at poetryschool.com.

Contributed by Su Ertekin-Taner (The Bolles School ’22)

“Bang’s Purgatorio

“Heading over waters getting better all the time
My mind’s little skiff now lifts its sails,
Letting go the oh-so-bitter sea behind it.

The next realm, the second I’ll sing,
Is here where the human spirit get purified
And made fir for the stairway to heaven.

Here’s where the kiss of life restores the reign
Of poetry—O true-blue Muses, I’m yours—
And where Calliope jumps up just long enough

To sing backup with the same bold notes
That knocked the poor magpie girls into knowing
Their audacity would never be pardoned.”    –Excerpt from Mary Jo Bang’s translation of Purgatorio, The New Yorker, December 23, 2019

Illustration by Berke Yazicioglu.
See more about Mary Jo Bang’s translation of Purgatorio here.