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Thread: An English Translation Recommendation for 'La Divina Commedia'

  1. #1
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    Oct 2007

    An English Translation Recommendation for 'La Divina Commedia'

    I have hitherto perused both the Mendelbaum and the Carlyle-Wicksteed translations of 'La Divina Commedia'. The Mendlebaum translation is rather too modern and unpoetic for my fastidious self to ever relish. The Carlyle-Wicksteed translation, on the contrary, bears an essence that is far more antiquated (which I prefer), yet, is slightly more prosaic and less intelligible withal.

    Would anyone happen to know who penned the eldest translation of 'La Divina Commedia', and, moreover, the translation that may, to some degree, boast the following criteria: antiquated language, a semi-poetic essence, and, a pre-twentieth century production?


  2. #2
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    Dec 2007
    Trenton, NJ

    The Divine Comedy by Dante

    I am currently reading Dante's Inferno and the translation I found that keeps closely to Dante's poetic style is a translation by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow published in 1867. I found Dante's epic poem hard to understand and this book is filled with Endnotes that commet on the images and persons I found to be rather cryptic if you don't have a good understanding of classical history. The complete translated Comedy is also available (Inferno, Purgatory, Paradise) by Longfellow. I hope this helps!

  3. #3
    Registered User Zeruiah's Avatar
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    Dec 2007
    Sacramento, California
    I'm using Longfellow as well. But then again, I haven't used any other translations in the past, thus I can't make a proper comparison. Whatever you choose to do, good luck.

  4. #4
    dum spiro, spero Nossa's Avatar
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    Sep 2006
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    I just bought a complete translation of The Divine Comedy, translated by Laurence Binyon. I've never come across any other translation before, but as far as I read in the one I have, it's pretty good and easy to read. I'm not sure if it's the best though.
    I'm the patron saint of the denial,
    With an angel face and a taste for suicidal.

  5. #5
    Jealous Optimist Dori's Avatar
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    Jul 2007
    You can see the H.F. Cary and Longfellow translations online here: The Divine Comedy. You might like the Cary translation.
    com-pas-sion (n.) [ME. & OFr. <LL. (Ec.) compassio, sympathy < compassus, pp. of compati, to feel pity < L. com-, together + pali, to suffer] sorrow for the sufferings or trouble of another or others, accompanied by an urge to help; deep sympathy; pity

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  6. #6
    Bibliophile JBI's Avatar
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    Feb 2007
    Prose translations will provide a more accurate interpretation, but I would agree Longfellow's is a good one, and there are a few modern ones that are excellent.

  7. #7
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    Sep 2008

    Anthony Esolen

    I have a translation by Anthony Esolen which was recommended to me by a friend who has read many different translations of the Comedy.

    The notes are excellent explaining nearly everything in the back of the book and also it includes appendixes of influential works on Dante.

  8. #8
    Lover of all things epic
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    Jul 2006
    I've found the Oxford University Press translations by Robert M Durling (with facing text Italian) invaluable in my work on Divina Commedia, but, they're still very new and I don't believe that 'Paradiso' has actually been published in this format yet. The Penguin 'Portable Dante' translated by Mark Musa is also great, because it's very accessible, whilst still maintaining the gravity of the original work.
    "Haunt me, take any form. Only, do not leave me in this abyss where I cannot find you."

  9. #9
    Literary Superstar Pryderi Agni's Avatar
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    On the spires of Paris, with the Red Queen...
    Quote Originally Posted by Dori View Post
    You can see the H.F. Cary and Longfellow translations online here: The Divine Comedy. You might like the Cary translation.
    Cary's translation is definitely the oldest. It's also good, which is why you should read it.

  10. #10
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    I find Cary's difficult to understand. Mandelbaum, for me, is much easier to understand, and I prefer his poetic style. His notes are better than Musa's. So I think I will be reading Mandelbaum.

  11. #11
    I would go with Mark Musa's blank verse translation. Hollander would be a close second.
    David Lafferty
    Author of "Afterlife - An Introduction to Dante's Inferno"
    Creator of Website Dante Explorer -

  12. #12
    Registered User ralfyman's Avatar
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    Apr 2011
    I use John Ciardi's translation, esp. the hardcover ed. from Modern Library. The first I read was Mandelbaum's, which is now available in hardcover form from Everyman. My favorite, though, is Pinsky's, but only Inferno is available. There are also some large-format editions now available with Dore's illustrations.

  13. #13
    I just bought it. I'm using the Ciardi translation; it will be my first read of it. I think I'll move on to the Hollander one after.
    Vladimir: (sententious.) To every man his little cross. (He sighs.) Till he dies. (Afterthought.) And is forgotten.

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