by Dante Alighieri
The Divine Comedy is an epic poem that follows the travels of the author, Dante, through different regions of the afterlife: Hell, Purgatory, and Heaven. Beyond the surface story of what lies beyond, the book is an allegory of one’s relationship with God. Dante broke with the tradition of writing literature in Latin, using the Italian vernacular for the book’s content. This opened the door for other authors to employ Italian in their writings.
For most books of foreign origin on my list, the translator’s name is written in little type on the copyright page, and is someone I’ve never heard of. So I was surprised at the different famous names attached to English versions of Dante’s verse. One of those names is Dorothy L. Sayers, the British author of detective stories and other works, and good friend of C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien. The version I will use was translated by another literary luminary: Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, the American poet who wrote the popular story of Paul Revere’s “one if by land, two if by sea” midnight ride. He brought The Divine Comedy into English verse in 1867. I will read a 490-page electronic copy of that text.
- [Book] Divine Comedy on Wikipedia
- [Author] Dante Alighieri on Wikipedia
- [Info] Princeton Dante Project, with abundant textual and multimedia links from the core text
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