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The Portable Dante

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Dante Alighieri paved the way for modern literature, while creating verse and prose that remain unparalleled for formal elegance, intellectual depth, and emotional grandeur. The Portable Dante contains complete verse translations of Dante's two masterworks, The Divine Comedy and La Vita Nuova, as well as a bibliography, notes, and an introduction by eminent scholar and translator Mark Musa.

654 pages, Paperback

First published April 1, 1947

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About the author

Dante Alighieri

3,488 books5,075 followers
Dante Alighieri, or simply Dante (May 14/June 13 1265 – September 13/14, 1321), is one of the greatest poets in the Italian language; with the comic story-teller, Boccaccio, and the poet, Petrarch, he forms the classic trio of Italian authors. Dante Alighieri was born in the city-state Florence in 1265. He first saw the woman, or rather the child, who was to become the poetic love of his life when he was almost nine years old and she was some months younger. In fact, Beatrice married another man, Simone di' Bardi, and died when Dante was 25, so their relationship existed almost entirely in Dante's imagination, but she nonetheless plays an extremely important role in his poetry. Dante attributed all the heavenly virtues to her soul and imagined, in his masterpiece The Divine Comedy, that she was his guardian angel who alternately berated and encouraged him on his search for salvation.

Politics as well as love deeply influenced Dante's literary and emotional life. Renaissance Florence was a thriving, but not a peaceful city: different opposing factions continually struggled for dominance there. The Guelfs and the Ghibellines were the two major factions, and in fact that division was important in all of Italy and other countries as well. The Pope and the Holy Roman Emperor were political rivals for much of this time period, and in general the Guelfs were in favor of the Pope, while the Ghibellines supported Imperial power. By 1289 in the battle of Campaldino the Ghibellines largely disappeared from Florence. Peace, however, did not insue. Instead, the Guelf party divided between the Whites and the Blacks (Dante was a White Guelf). The Whites were more opposed to Papal power than the Blacks, and tended to favor the emperor, so in fact the preoccupations of the White Guelfs were much like those of the defeated Ghibellines. In this divisive atmosphere Dante rose to a position of leadership. in 1302, while he was in Rome on a diplomatic mission to the Pope, the Blacks in Florence seized power with the help of the French (and pro-Pope) Charles of Valois. The Blacks exiled Dante, confiscating his goods and condemning him to be burned if he should return to Florence.

Dante never returned to Florence. He wandered from city to city, depending on noble patrons there. Between 1302 and 1304 some attempts were made by the exiled Whites to retrieve their position in Florence, but none of these succeeded and Dante contented himself with hoping for the appearance of a new powerful Holy Roman Emperor who would unite the country and banish strife. Henry VII was elected Emperor in 1308, and indeed laid seige to Florence in 1312, but was defeated, and he died a year later, destroying Dante's hopes. Dante passed from court to court, writing passionate political and moral epistles and finishing his Divine Comedy, which contains the Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradiso. He finally died in Ravenna in 1321.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 116 reviews
Profile Image for Douglas Wilson.
Author 273 books3,653 followers
February 20, 2017
Of course, glorious and wise. Well worth it. But I was struck -- and perhaps unfairly -- with the Christlessness of his Heaven.
Profile Image for Szplug.
467 reviews1,259 followers
July 29, 2011
Oh Dante! Tuscan master of belle langue
Who crafted these three heavenly pearls
Of stunning verse, that unleash in song
Of tortuous treks, our pilgrim led by Virgil's
Wise spirit, mastering fierce devils and Hell
To reach the base of Purgatory's mount
Bewitched by souls who stumble in a veil
Attempting Heaven's Gate too long to count
Menagerie of repenting souls, now wise
To past life's sins, Latins whom before
Our pilgrim Dante, in asking, brooks no lies
And gains much wisdom wending through the door
That leads unto the vast celestial sea
Wherein Beatrice, so fair, his heart's true love
Guides him through the star's holy tapestry
E'en as our traveler seeks Grace from above
Oh Dante! Genius' radiant confrere
Whose stanzas, like diamonds, glisten and shine
With a resplendence nigh beyond compare
Not for every taste, true, but ah! for mine!
Profile Image for Jon.
1,325 reviews
March 4, 2011
If you want a kind of bare-bones Dante (and who doesn't?)--this revised edition is for you. The complete Divine Comedy and Vita Nuova, more than competently translated, with the absolute minimum of notes, put at the bottom of each page. No flipping back and forth to the back to find out who this person was, and no lengthy discussions of every minute point. Also no Italian on facing pages, but you can't have everything. A version to be read quickly. An excellent introduction for which I'm very grateful. Among other things, it called my attention to the perfect word Dante used to describe Cleopatra--lussuriosa--the sound of it and the lingering quality are so much better than the usual English translation--wanton. Both Longfellow and Laurence Binyon managed "voluptuous." Better than "wanton" but still not quite right. Mark Musa, this editor and translator, took it further "who loved men's lusting."
Profile Image for Nostalgia Reader.
806 reviews64 followers
September 1, 2019
An average of about 2.5 stars, but I'm rounding it to 3 because the good stuff was REALLY good.

Inferno: 4 stars. Well that was fun.
Purgatorio: 2.5 stars. So boring, but also poetic justice is fun and the ending was awesome.
Paradisio: 1 star. Wow, I thought y'all had cleansed yourselves of pride via Purgatory.
La Vita Nuova: 2 stars. Annoying, but sorta amusing.

I really enjoyed Musa's translation--it was very readable--but the footnotes were very inconsistent outside of Inferno. I would have appreciated more clarifications for some analogies and myth references throughout Purgatory and clarifications of wtf Paradise even was. Great for learning Florentine history though, the footnotes were a mini-class on the subject.

Also, the whole thing seemed like one big sh!tpost directed towards the city of Florence.

Still waiting for the spin off detailing Statius and Matelda's adventures in Earthly Paradise
Profile Image for Noel.
4 reviews5 followers
September 12, 2007
Although I had read Dante's work and quite enjoyed it previously, this book really brought the entire Comedy into a new light for me. The notes by Mark Musa seem to occupy nearly as much room as story they detail, with very wonderful results; exquisite details--about Dante's own life, then-contemporary society, and even his references to mythology--are compiled and laid bare or the reader to absorb. Below is an example of the text as well as the accompanying notes.

Canto XVII lines 60-69

"But what will weigh you down the most will be
the despicable, senseless company
whom you shall have to bear in that sad vale;

and all ungrateful, all completely mad
and vicious, they shall turn on you, but soon
their cheeks, not yours, will have to blush from shame.

Proof of their bestiality will show
through their own deeds! It will be to your honor
to have become a party of your own."

62-69. The "company" is that of the Biachi, or White Guelphs, who were exiled with Dante. After the exile in 1302, they made several attempts to march on Florence. Dante did not participate in the last attempt in 1304, and about this time he broke from the party. Specific reasons for this severence are unknown.

Part of what makes this whole story interesting is that Alighieri weaves his own personal thoughts and life with myth, legend, and even hearsay. His own point-of-view on prominent figures of the period provides a glimpse through time, peppered with fitting comparisons and sometimes-morbid fantasy.

This edition as a whole gave me a sense that the impossible could have once happened, the biographical information on Dante [as a person, writer] seeming to lend credibilty to his depiction [as a character] and his descriptions of a complex, fairy tale journey.
Profile Image for Leeann.
3 reviews27 followers
January 29, 2008
I am still in awe after reading this book. Dante is a genius on so many levels it's mind numbing. He has this unbelievable ability to write like he is painting. His imagination is so vivid and visual that his writing actually made me question whether or not he had really been on a guided tour of hell, purgatory, and paradise. On top of that, he's got that magical poet's ability to write that one line that makes you wake up for a second and take note. I think knowing the story of Dante and Beatrice added a lot to this book for me. Because I was somewhat familiar with their story, I didn't see the "Divine Comedy" as a morality tale of Dante's Catholic faith but more as a beautiful way for Dante to connect again with that intense love that he had for Beatrice. I think because it was written in the 1300's, my tiny brain did have trouble keeping up with some parts and I had a hell of a time getting through Paradise without falling asleep but it was well worth it in the end. I actually bought a used copy of this book and the original
owner, Mr. Clarence L. Sappington, added a new dimension for me. He made lots of notes on the sides of pages and underlined quite a bit. I had a great time trying to figure out why Mr. Sappinton liked certain passages so much... so thank you Mr. Sappington, wherever you are.
Profile Image for Kirsten.
277 reviews11 followers
August 16, 2018
Fascinating, thought provoking, overwhelming and inspiring all at once! Some sections so difficult to wade through, others perfectly express the struggles of the human condition, others a fascinating insight into the theology of the 14th Century. Interestingly, I was really disappointed by Paradisio - I much prefer the simplicity of Revelation 21:3-7! So glad to have read this book.
Profile Image for eleanor.
125 reviews3 followers
March 23, 2022
dwc 102 - interesting and entertaining, dante is obviously a genius but it was for class so like ignore the star rating
Profile Image for James Henderson.
2,044 reviews166 followers
June 18, 2018
The Aeneid was read by Dante and others and the first part of the epic poem can be read as an allegory for the journey of one's life. The surface meaning of the Virgil's poem is the travels and travails of Aeneas between the time he leaves Troy and arrives in Latium, where he will found the city that one day becomes Rome. But the allegorical reading is one which can be applied to any man including Dante. Aeneas demonstrates self-control in resisting the attractions of Dido while persisting in his mission and in doing so overcoming many obstacles demonstrating courage and fortitude. Most importantly for comparison with the Dante's poem, in Book 6 of the Aeneid, Aeneas goes down to the underworld.
The visit to the underworld in the Aeneid also parallels a similar visit made by Ulysses (Odysseus) in Homer's Odyssey. Dante knew the story of Ulysses from Ovid who recounts it in his Metamorphoses (like Dante, Ovid suffered the fate of exile and expulsion from the city he loved and died without returning to it). It is this recounting that inspired the tale narrated by Ulysses in Canto 26 of The Inferno.
Robert Fagles points out in his introduction to The Aeneid that Dante's reaction when he recogizes Virgil ("Are you then that Virgil", Inferno 1.77) is a recall of Dido's question when she realizes who her visitor must be ("Are you that Aeneas . . ., Aeneid 1.738). There are other borrowings from the Aeneid, notably the same Charon ferries spirits across the same river and refuses to take a living passenger at first (Inferno 3.80). Further comparison between the sea voyage of Aeneas in The Aeneid with Dante's epic can be seen in the use of the sea-voyage image at the beginning of both the Purgatorio and the Paridiso.
In the twentieth century Hermann Broch began his novel of Virgil's last days with a similar motif of the ending of a sea-voyage with Virgil lying on his death bed in the entourage of Augustus. Beside Virgil in a small trunk was the manuscript for the Aeneid. And Primo Levi, in his autobiographical Survival in Auschwitz, recounts how he kept himself sane by attempting to reconstruct Ulysses' great speech in the Commedy from memory. These words provided a touchstone of humanity and civilization even that modern version of Dante's hell.
1 review
April 2, 2008
This collection contains the Laurence Binyon translation of The Divine Comedy. Harold Bloom recommends it as the translation closest to reading Dante in the native Italian. Since I don't read (or speak) Italian, I could hazard an opinion, though I would say that it appears to be the most poet of the translations I have seen, which would be the Longfellow and Mandelbaum translations. These two translation are available online at http://dante.ilt.columbia.edu/new/com...

My suggestion, if you are willing to invest the time, is to read the Mandelbaum and Binyon translations together. In my opinion, its worth the investment of time. Dante is pure creative genius. His extraordinary imagination seems limitless as he describes is journey through Hell, then Purgatory (fittingly, I became mired in the Purgatory section and had to put it down for a bit. I have taken back up the reading of the Purgatory section and am now in sight of Paradise).

You read the Binyon for the breathtaking poetry and Mandelbaum to keep from getting lost in the sometimes tortured grammatical structures.
Profile Image for Brandon Pearce.
36 reviews2 followers
January 15, 2009
WOW! Absolutely inspiring. This book made me take a thorough look at my own personal axiological assumptions and changed my mind in a couple of instances. The last Canto of Paradise just about blew my mind- epistomologically speaking of course. The entire progression from underground to mountain to the overpowering radiance of God was very Plotonic; loved it! The unified understanding of God as well as the symbolic representation of the godhead as the only way to mediate the truth of God to Dante was very Owen Barfield, another of my favorites. This book ought to be read by everyone, and not just because your high school English teacher made you.

This version has a lot of helpful foot notes to explain the obscure Italian Renaissance political figures who are mentioned frequently, as well as other mythological and legendary figures that also make appearances throughout.
Profile Image for Scott.
24 reviews
August 15, 2014
Laurence Binyon's masterful terza rima translation is the essential Divina Comedia for English readers. Anthony Esolen's is an excellent translation that while exacting fails to capture the marvels of Binyon's rhyming stanzas. (He certainly understands the Dante's allusions and especially his theology, better than Binyon). Mandelbaum's translation is worth owning, and occasionally excels, but does not excite me like the two previously mentioned. Except for various fragments, I've never found a translation into English that matches these. Finally, I must confess my stunned awe of the multiple perfections of Binyon's beautiful rendering.
Profile Image for Matt.
1,035 reviews666 followers
January 7, 2013

Tentative, unsatisfying prolegomena to a review currently under construction:

Before I start rolling up the ol' sleeves, I want to admit straightaway that I am indeed a neurotic, superstitious fool with variously delusional notions of grandeur who chose to not add this book to my GR "read" list because, at the time, I was poised on the cliff of having read (by the GR tally) six hundred and ninety-nine books and I wanted Dante (who dug him some numerology) to give me the magic push up to the big 7-0-0.

Seven, I'm told, is the Greek number of completion. Check it out: 7 steps to heaven, 7 deadly sins, 7 brides for 7 brothers, the 700 club, the name of Andre 3000 and Eykah Badu's son...and I am absurdly swelled with pride at this fact. The 700 books, I mean. I'm happy for Andre Ben and the anarchic Ms Badu but this is MY show, dammnit...

I'm also glad I can say that I have, indeed, Read Dante. I appreciated and enjoyed the experience, but I didn't take to the Commedia in all its stateliness and epic grandeur as many better and wiser readers have before me. For one example, Samuel Beckett was audience to a friend's (most-likely) sozzled monologue on the social responsibilities of the artist and the necessity of getting out among The People or The Workers or whatever. St Sam replied, laconic as ever, "aw, I just want to sit on my arse and fart and think of Dante." Yes!

That, and there's that moment in the wonderful novel Humbolt's Gift where the narrator (and it's Bellow, don't muck about, now) ruminates on his titular hero's sitting with some ex-classmate in some penthouse office with an impossibly panoramic view of NYC under glass before him, sipping on his three-fingers-whisky lunch and chatting about Dante's bird imagery.

Call me a wannabe all you like, but I wanted in on that. I am always stubbornly defensive about the canon and I want to conquer it like the White Male Imperialist I sometimes can't help but be, but more on that later. Suffice to say I'm a "checklist" reader often enough, but I don't read what I don't fundamentally enjoy.

Anyhoo, back to Dante: there's obviously quite a bit that gets lost in translation- only a fluent speaker of Italian would be able to recieve the full effect. My boss is one of those impossibly cosmopolitan and worldly dudes (grew up in Germany, Milanese ex-model wife, his kids speak three languages, etc) who has evidently seen Roberto Begnini do one of his Dante performances live and spoke energetically about witnessing it.

Check it out for yourself: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UOkgT1...

Cool, right? But well-nigh incomprehensible. And that's not Dante's fault, naturally, but still...you want to let Robert Frost get away with his whole "poetry is what's lost in translation" bit? Me neither, but what for the love of God is that little balding elfin dude raving on about?

More to the point, it's also that Dante is just such a moralizer. He has so much didactic purpose and pious certainty that it kind of drives me up a wall. I'm a good secular humanist on my worst day but when confronted with theology in my poetry I still want to put my hip, post-modern disdain for totalizing narratives aside and dig the splendour. Honest, I'm totally cool about that kind of thing, especially when it comes to the epic poems and the school of the ages and all that business.

It's just that this is mighty hard to do with this Alighieri cat, even though I looked through acclaimed translations until I found one that suited me. Mark Musa's version doesn't seem to be terribly pompous or anything, and he good-naturedly explains the difficulties of translation and his choice of 'blank verse' rather than be hemmed in with Dante's original terza rima. I just think it's more that Dante's oracular, metaphysical certitude shines through no matter what shade you put over it.

To make matters worse, his penchant for allegory gets wearying and blatant. It's also that there isn't much in the way of 'poetry' - I know that sounds a bit boorish, but go with me here....

Again, so much is lost in translation- the rhythmn, the specificity, intricate nuances of sound and sense. For example, I'd heard that at one point in the Inferno Dante talks to someone who has been hanged. The language that he uses is full of gutteral, vowel-rich sounds, so that it replicates the clenched and gagged sound a voice from such a throat would have. Hell yeah, bring that shit on, I said- that's just the kind of thing I'd like to read...

I was looking forward to specifically finding that moment, seeing how that was done, reveling in the gory morbidity. But I looked for it and I found it in the text it just wasn't there, for reasons that aren't really Dante's fault, of course, but still- you can translate a different kind of writer with more of the effects coming through intact.

I think Dante doesn't seem to care all that much about making his world feel 'real' or, better to say, visceral and atmospherically rich; in a word, vivid. Instead, he pretty much just leads you up and down the painstakingly detailed labyrinth of his moral and political and spiritual universe (the first two are, finally, the really essential ones, it seems) and leaves much of what would make that kind of thing evocative and compelling by the wayside. I don't think I'm the best reader for somebody who writes like that, to be honest. Maybe I have no 'imagination'.

I know very little about the Russian critic Shklovsky, but I read that he said that the purpose of art was "to make the stone stony", which is just about the best definition of this fictional thing of ours I've heard. It's about taking the nouns and verbs of life and letting us know what you make of them, transforming the familiar and pedestrian into something eminently luminous, interpretable, telling us what you mean by the words you say, the reality you're trying to describe. Showing, as it were, by way of telling.

The thing I kept bumping up against with Dante (and I read it in good faith) was that he would have a tendency to just say 'stone' and leave it at that. Or, even more so, he would place that stone at a particular point in the narrative and leave it there. Everything (and I mean everything) is part of Dante's theo-fictional cosmos- colors and historical figures and metaphors and characters and so on and so forth. One could make the argument that, for Dante, this is his way of making his stones stonier but I doubt it.

I mean, consider the first few lines. Dante the pilgrim is lost in the middle of his life in a strange wood, and he sees the lion, the leopard and the she-wolf. Each represent what we might call moral failings- pride, greed, voluptuousness, etc.

Fine, as far as that goes. But, for the purposes of the reader at least, in they come, and out they go. What do they look like? I know what a lion looks like, thanks, but what does Dante want me to see in this lion? Lion signifying pride is pretty easily to get your head around, but I'd like some color and some description. Allegory leaves me cold. Ooh! A lion! Rawr. Turn the page...

To get this effect, it's all about Gustave Dore. Check out his etchings from the complete Commedia here: http://www.worldofdante.org/gallery_d...

Holy. Shit. Now, I know that visual representation and verbal representation are two different things, and that one offers what the other doesn't. But once I start looking at these pictures (and are they ever addictive, once you really begin to take them in) I'm seeing these magnificent, visceral, ominous, grandiloquent portrayals of lost souls and righteousness and all that. I'm seeing, in a word, what I'm NOT reading in Dante's text.

To tell me, for example, that a character is encased in ice up to his neck is interesting on its own terms, of course, and I'm open to what might come of this as a part of the story but merely stating that this is the case instead of elaborating on it descriptively (I don't know, how about, for starters, what color was the ice? How cold was it? Like a winter wind, or a room with no heat? What?) he just pretty much tells me he's come across this fellow incased in ice up to his neck and leaves it at that. Very little in the way of detail. I might be asking for too much, given the format and time period, but I don't think so. A little extra jazz here and there really puts me in the middle of things.

Instead, Dante focuses on his generations-old personal feud with the poor, albeit wicked, fellow in question and makes that pretty much the totality of the scene. And, what's more, it's less of a debate than it is a monologue- Dante tells the chap pretty much where he can stick it. He gets a little badass on him, too, he's pulling the guy's frozen hair back, he's shouting in his face, he lies to him and tells the reader it's a pleasure to fuck with somebody that much of a loser.

Well, sure, I mean there's no law that says he has to air grievances because of some kind of equal-time clause of literature (perish the thought!) but I'm getting Dante's thumb blurring the lens over and over again and it's a sectarian, dogmatic, severely pious, totalizing consciousness that obscures what the 'story' could be on its own merits. I understand totally that the story IS this kind of instruction, at least I think that's what Dante would solemnly intone to me if I ever asked him, but still...

This is just a small part of the whole, naturally, but still there is quite a lot of it over quite a bit of space. Dante seems to think that his symbolic use of various maladies and karmic comeuppance is as awe-inspiring (and I mean that deliberately) on its own merits that it should carry the day.

I really like that he has a wide-ranging, encyclopedic, deeply detailed, multifaceted poetic universe (there's a reason why he was a major influence on the Modernists) but it's just not as alive to me as I want it to be.

I read a canto or two, finish it, and feel slightly underwhelmed. Did I miss something? I go back, following more closely. Same words, same images, same presentation, same moral at the end. I got it. Sure, there are thousands of Italian students who spend years discussing these bits, to say nothing of worldwide recognition, but still I can't shake the feeling that there's less there than meets the eye, at least for me.

If a certain writer's style or perspective jibes with you, then you'll definitely be more apt to find more out of a small bit, but still I think I'm not just falling back on my own preferences.

I don't mean to sound overly flip or consumerist, either. I think everyone needs to have some decent grounding in the canon because it's the fucking canon. I decided Dante was worth reading because he's constantly venerated worldwide- good for him. I also don't think that one should apply unneccesary or awkwardly modern categories or ideologies to work that is, after all, roughly seven hundred years old. I bow to this, as I believe one must. I have reverence for it and I respect it on its own terms. But I don't have to like it, even if it's great.

I enjoyed the poetics, shall we say, in Purgatorio the most, which is apparantly more or less the consensus of those in the know. Paradisio was lovely in parts but they were the exception that proved the rule. Word on the street is: Inferno is the fun, horror movie, surreal stuff, Purgatorio is the best poetry, in terms of lyricism, and Paradisio was Aquinas-mad Dante's personal favorite (groan).

I remember when I was very young and asking my devoutly Christian parents what heaven was supposed to be like and there was some nonsense about singing all day about how happy you were to be with the Lord, how the Lord is happiness and how just to be around him, in his presence and radiance, was peachy fucking keen. Well, sure, I suppose that works as far as it goes, for those for whom it's as far as it needs to go. But we couldn't get a little something better than that? Huh? Dante, poet of the ages, poet of the secular world according to Dan Auerbach, you wanna turn up the volume on the bliss of God a little higher, homeskillet?

I guess I'm just more of a Milton guy at heart. I know full well that he did pretty much everything Dante does, and with as much grandiose ambition and super-Christy pedantry, etc. Bloom says that Milton writes the great Protestant poem and Dante writes the great Catholic poem, which seems ok by me having read them both and having both strains hotly embedded in my blood.

Honestly, though, I think when Milton paints a picture you can fucking feel it in your bones more than you can in Dante. It's got more verve, more swirl, more blue notes, more vibrance. More flesh, if you will. Immediacy.

Dante is ultimately writing you a perscription, Milton is throwing thunderbolts.

Shelley once urbanely remarked that "the Devil owes everything to Milton". Well, for me at least, Dante owes everything to Dore.

More to come, once I get around to it, if anyone cares....
Profile Image for Hannah.
648 reviews1 follower
March 19, 2020
I'm finished! I can't tell you how excited I am to be done. It took a long time. This book had all of the Divine Comedy. It had Hell, Purgatory, and Heaven. This is a book that we've all heard about and I decided to finally give it a whirl.

So Dante's main character has a dream. And in the dream he is greeted by Virgil who guides him through hell and purgatory. Why? Because of the love of a woman named Beatrice. She has died and is in heaven. She wants the Pilgrim to know what is in store for him and to mend his ways. So she entreats God and he grants her request.

The Inferno is the most exciting of the three books. The descriptions are vivid and the punishments are really creative. Some are weird - people who commit suicide become trees? People who were fortune tellers and reading the future are doomed to live with their heads on backward. I just loved these descriptions.

Purgatory seemed like a slog. Which I think it would be. You have to climb a mountain and get your sins wiped away. It talked to these people who were just "kind of" good or "kind of" bad.

And heaven got a little...much. Just everything was beautiful. Beatrice showed up and escorted the Pilgrim the rest of the way and she was beautiful. The angels were beautiful. The planets were beautiful. Got it? Beautiful.

The one thing that I didn't love was all the name dropping. It was probably pretty great at the time, but I kept having to consult all the notes to figure out who these people were and what it meant. I wish that Dante had kept his characters as general descriptions and less specific people. It was like Dante decided to have his revenge on every person ever.

I don't know if my life is better for reading this book. I don't know if I'm going to do better at trivia because of it. I just..it's just done.
Profile Image for Adam Carnehl.
337 reviews7 followers
February 2, 2019
O Chief of Poets who dare'st look upon
Him whom Moses was not given to see;
Thou master of the word, who, like the dawn
Shined upon a divided Italy
To give men a vision of Triune Love,
Who fills the cosmos with divine fire.

(This Love, which burned Dante from above,
flashed from Beatrice - she he did admire
for her perfect, heavenly qualities.)

Lead us, by thy intoxicating vision,
the one which, by the Spirit, thou didst seize
like such a careful and holy craftsman.
Reveal all our sins and all our errors;
show us Truth to save the world from terrors.
Profile Image for Anne.
546 reviews
April 10, 2018
5 stars for this translation and edition, 3 for how much I enjoyed reading it this time. I tried to cram it for a book discussion, and it just can't be read that way. So I split the difference. I really did find this edition and the footnotes to be super readable.
September 7, 2022
this was one of the most challenging books i have ever read. not only is it incredibly long and dense, but it takes time to absorb the words. i annotated as well. the language with which he speaks is so eloquent and captivating. the philosophical ideas and beautifully written into the poetry. plus, the end was really insightful, describing dante’s thought process whilst writing some of the sonnets. his ability to turn his thoughts into poetry is truly incredible and an underrated gift. highly recommend!!!!!!!!
Profile Image for Alpha.
Author 0 books9 followers
October 14, 2011
"I personally was intrigued with this book for quite awhile now ever since reading it back in High School. However, it is the fact that there is a game coming out based loosely on Dante's Inferno that made me go through with it. Also, the one-two kick from Bruno Rontini's view of the Divine Comedy from the novel ""Time Must Have a Stop"" added to the wanting of reading this book.

I love all the themes used during the Divine Comedy, which I found out was just given the ""Divine"" part later on from the church. The reverse of sinners being punished by the aspect of their sin such as lustful couples constantly being torn away from each other due to strong winds, is really unique. I also like how sin is purged in Purgatory. However, I have to say that my view of Heaven is not exactly like Dante's and maybe it's because I seen some awesome views of Heaven - especially in the video game by the same name - that makes it seem that Paradise isn't as grand as it seems. Maybe it was grand back during Dante's time but due to how entertainment can make things seem to be, then it is a little behind-the-times.

The Vita Nuova was a very insightful view on Dante's life and is more of a cliffbook for the inspiration of his writings, Beatrice which he never truly ends up with.

The big thing about this book that gave some stars off is the same thing Bruno Rontini from ""Time Must Have a Stop"" said. Dante has a major agenda and it is all due to his politics. It seems that this book was more political than a spiritual insight. Everyone that supports or has a bit of view towards Dante are either in Purgatory or Paradise while all the people of the opposing party or Dante's enemies are in Inferno. Not to mention, in Paradise, it would be expected of people talking about love and compassion and forgiveness - not condeming which was done in the Sphere of Jupiter when the souls condemned souls of the unjust to Inferno.

Despite the political themes hidden within the book, I suggest this book to those who love classic poetry, theology, and of course sociology."
Profile Image for B. P. Rinehart.
747 reviews256 followers
August 29, 2019
This review is for the Laurence Binyon translation of The Divine Comedy that I read as a part of this(The Portable Dante; 1947, 1965 edition) anthology:

All I can say is that this was breath-taking. An epic poem in every sense of the word. I began reading this Poem on and off since 2007-2008, and have only finished it now in January 2012!
It was staggering and just magical to read this poem and I mean the WHOLE poem not just the Inferno. As a bonus the Binyon translation renders the English in the same format as Dante's original Italian (A,B,A,B...). It may not be the most simplistic form but it is the most faithful and it confirms a sense that you are reading something poetic as opposed to oddly written prose.

What can I say about the story that has not been said? Sure it is dated and not exactly P.C. (so-to-speak) in some parts but the main message of undying, eternal love, faith, and redemption is still very powerful and resonates in our world. After you get past the Inferno you see what this poem really is about which is love (courtly, sensual, and divine) in my opinion. While one does get caught up in the action of the Inferno it is really just the set-up for the true aesthetic beauty of the piece in the Paradisio. The Purgatorio is the mix between these two incorporating elements of both and you will become as attached to Dante's mentors (Virgil and Beatrice) as he is after while. So please get to this poem right away and no matter which translation try to get whatever brings the understanding of the poem closes to you.

I will probably read La Vita Nuova later and will update this accordingly.
Profile Image for Chris.
229 reviews9 followers
February 23, 2010
Yes, I am a total nerd.

I just finished reading the Inferno, and am taking a brief break before entering Purgatorio. Dante really liked imagining gruesome punishments, especially for people he knew in real life and apparently hated. I'm looking forward to seeing how he treated people he liked.

Update as of 2/15/2010 - I made it through the Purgatorio, which could be described as slightly less painful version of the Inferno. Filled with plenty of punishments that aren't quite as horrible as Hell, but certainly enough to remind you that you had not quite lived the blessed life. Thankfully, what makes Purgatorio better than the Inferno is that at some point you know you will ascend to Paradiso, which is what I'll be attempting next.

2/21/2010 - Paradiso has been accomplished. What can I say that hasn't been said for seven centuries? It's one amazing accomplishment of epic poetry. It's also one of those works that you really need a ton of good footnotes to fully comprehend. Definitely not a light read, and you need to be up on your 14th century astronomy, politics, and religious/academic thought to even begin to appreciate this. Thus, I refer you back to reading a version with plenty of good footnotes. I would have been lost otherwise.

Also, I'd recommend reading the blissfully short La Vita Nuovo before reading the Divine Comedy. Luckily, it was included in this volume. It provides a nice personal introduction on Dante, his thoughts, and his personal experiences that led to him to write the Divine Comedy.
36 reviews
May 29, 2012
This is a great version of Dante's Devine Comedy because at the top of each section there was a summary of the chapter. It helped a lot when I wanted to look back at events that happened previously. It was also good if some things in the chapter were unclear, I could read the summary to help me understand what was going on. I think the chapter summaries make this an ideal translation for students and casual readers alike.

My favorite of the Divine Comedy was Purgatario. Inferno is by far the most popular, but I thought the consequences to sin that Dante describes in this installment were more interesting. Rather than an ironic or hyperbolic punishment, the souls in purgatory are set to some sort of task that while it fits their sins, eventually will lead them to the self-improvement necessary to attain sanctification. I liked the spirit of hope and mercy present in Purgatario.

I disliked Paradiso. It seemed like just a bunch of ego stroking as Dante describes how all of his patrons are in Heaven, and talks about how his girlfriend (who is his guide throughout the whole thing) is just soooooo perfect. It's a shame that Dante decided to spend this section pandering to the egos of others rather than providing a satisfying conclusion to his Comedy.
Profile Image for Daniel.
10 reviews1 follower
March 18, 2009
It's been a few years since I read this, but three things stand strong in my mind, and influenced my rating:

1. Inferno is not the most commonly read portion of Dante's Divine Comedy without reason. The reason is quite simple; it's the best written of the three acts in his comedy. Here Dante's biting wit, poignant judgments and creativity come through stronger than in any of the other two, and separately I'd rate this as "five stars".

2. Sadly, it goes downhill from here. While Purgatory was an interesting, meandering journey, it lacked a lot of the same punch and direct style of Inferno. It does act as an insightful perspective on Dante's idea of redemption. Let's give it "three stars".

3. I was most disappointed with the last book, Paradise. Perhaps I was just tired after working through Purgatory, but Paradise is the hardest act to write, and sadly, also the least enjoyable. How exactly can the rapture of Paradise be explained, anyway? While I respect Dante for attempting the feat, his Paradise falls short of the divine. "Two stars" at best.

Overall, read all three for history's sake. Perhaps your conclusion will be different from mine.
Profile Image for Maarten.
85 reviews11 followers
July 5, 2008
What I learned from this book is that I need to read it again! Actually, I "only" read The Divine Comedy, and just bits and pieces of the rest. But going for that whole reading experience was quite a challenge and a satisfying one at that. Making such an incredible journey was absolutely worth it. The only problem is, there was just so much to take in, so many footnotes explaining each character that Dante meets, that an overall impression, or a general memory of it, is hard to give. All I truly remember is this sense of awe and adventure of going into those dark pits and gradually ascending to the light. Faith and poetry, love and imagination: it's all there in abundance. Hats off to Lawrence Binyon who did an amazing job at translating into English and preserving the rhyme and rhythm of the original. Somehow The Divine Comedy keeps whispering in my ear to take the journey again, and I hope I will once again find time to answer those whispers...
Profile Image for CX Dillhunt.
81 reviews
March 21, 2009
You can read Musa straight trough, nice notation as needed, including great intros to each canto, not over bearing, he has the poetics carry the poem...his best translation is Paradiso! Also includes Vita Nuova at the end which I'd recommend reading first as it is shorter, tighter, but still plays the poetic games so loved by Dante as well as being a series inter-linked love poems to Beatrice...and in this translation of V.N.(unlike the earlier Oxford & Indiana press ones) he imbeds the Latin (with footnoting) which is more to the "real" style of the poem (i.e., it wasn't Italian or translated).
15 reviews5 followers
January 1, 2013
Mark Musa's translation is straightforward, easy to follow, and in friendly blank verse. I only wish I had purchased the individual Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradiso, because apparently they have many more notes. The notes are somewhat sporadic in this version (being portable, after all) and you get the feeling they were selected at random - some persons, referred-to events, and concepts are explained at length and others are not at all. But maybe I just don't know better.

A personal four stars, but it's a five-star translation in a handy little package and I can't really fault it for lacking footnotes.
Profile Image for John.
634 reviews31 followers
February 12, 2018
Dear Dante Alighieri,

I can't thank you enough for this classic volume. Inferno terrified me as I could see myself placed in most any of the circles of hell. And Purgatory then brought me from fear to hope as I see myself being cleansed by the grace of God. And Paradise was so confusing and beautiful and amazing. The vision of the Trinity: WOW!

Thank you for inspiring me when I need it. I just wish that I could have read this in your Italian because it must be even more beautiful. Regardless, this is one of the most wonderful reading experiences that I have ever had.

The translation by Musa held my attention throughout.

Profile Image for Bebe Burnside.
218 reviews3 followers
November 15, 2011
I know what why 700 years later people are reading Dante. His Divine Comedy was just amazing. I enjoyed the footnotes which helped me to understand more, but I found I could figure out most of the story line on my own. I would recommend this story to anyone.
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