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Dante and The Divine Comedy in Translation

Kirk Petersen
The list author says: "All translators are liars. If you want to truly experience the Divine Comedy, you need to learn Italian, preferably fourteenth-century Italian. But barring that, we are stuck with translations. And God only knows how many translations have been done of the Divine Comedy! I have never even seen a guess. There must be dozens--at the very least. And yet, I have never seen a translation that seemed definitive to me: prose is too flat and terza rima results in distorted text. Below is a quick guide to the more famous and the more recent translations. Also, if you’re not already familiar with Dante, notes are essential. (Some of the information on this list was drawn from Barbara Reynold’s article in The Oxford Guide to Literature in English Translation.)"
Divine Comedy, Cary's Translation, Complete
Divine Comedy, Cary's Translation, Complete
"Henry Francis Cary (1814)  Blank verse.  Not actually the first, but one of the more famous.  Very influential in Britain.  Cary is memorialized in Westminster Abbey as 'The Translator of Dante'."
The Divine Comedy Of Dante
The Divine Comedy Of Dante
"Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1867)  Blank terzine.  Famous American poet.  Easily found on the web at several different sites.  Also seems to be the translation of choice for American publishers looking for copyright-free works."
The Inferno of Dante Alighieri (The Temple classics)
The Inferno of Dante Alighieri (The Temple classics)
"Temple Classics (1849)  Rhythmic prose.  Three different translators.   Quite famous in its era."
Dante's Inferno (the Divine Comedy, Volume 1, Hell)
Dante's Inferno (the Divine Comedy, Volume 1, Hell)
"Charles Eliot Norton (1891)  Prose.  A Harvard professor.  Seems to have been the standard for many years in the United States."
The Divine Comedy Dante Alighieri
The Divine Comedy Dante Alighieri
"Melville B. Anderson (1921)  Terza rima.  American."
Inferno: The Divine Comedy, Volume 1 (Galaxy Books)
Inferno: The Divine Comedy, Volume 1 (Galaxy Books)
"John D. Sinclair (1939)  Prose.  Superb commentary.  I bought mine just for Sinclair’s insight."
The Divine Comedy: Text With Translation in the Metre of the Original by Geoffrey L. Bickersteth
The Divine Comedy: Text With Translation in the Metre of the Original by Geoffrey L. Bickersteth
"Geoffrey L. Bickersteth (1932)  Terza rima."
The Divine Comedy, Part 1: Hell (Penguin Classics)
The Divine Comedy, Part 1: Hell (Penguin Classics)
"Dorothy Sayers (1949)  Terza rima.  British writer best known for her detective novels.  Last volume completed by Barbara Reynolds.  Very famous translation.   The language sounds Biblical to me, but perhaps it should."
The Inferno (Signet Classics)
The Inferno (Signet Classics)
"John Ciardi (1954)  Defective terza rima (middle of each tercet unrhymed).   CHARdee.  American poet, worked for PBS for a while.  Perhaps the most popular translation in the United States in recent history."
The Divine Comedy, I. Inferno. Part 1
The Divine Comedy, I. Inferno. Part 1
"Charles Singleton (1970)  Prose.  Professor at Johns Hopkins.  Very scholarly, highly respected for its notes."
The Divine Comedy: Volume 1: Inferno (Penguin Classics)
The Divine Comedy: Volume 1: Inferno (Penguin Classics)
"Mark Musa (1971)  Blank terzine.  Professor at Indiana University.   Good notes.   Along with Mandelbaum’s, the most used translation in American colleges and high schools.  Probably the most accessible version for the general reader."
Divine Comedy (Oxford World's Classics)
Divine Comedy (Oxford World's Classics)
"C.H. Sisson (1980) Generally blank verse."
The Divine Comedy: Inferno; Purgatorio; Paradiso (Everyman's Library)
The Divine Comedy: Inferno; Purgatorio; Paradiso (Everyman's Library)
"Allen Mandelbaum (1980)  Blank terzine.   American.   A favorite of many.   Some versions have no notes.  Along with Musa’s, the most-used translation in American colleges and high schools."
Dante's Inferno: The First Part of the Divine Comedy of Dante Alighieri
Dante's Inferno: The First Part of the Divine Comedy of Dante Alighieri
"Tom Phillips (1985)  Blank verse.  Includes author’s own illustrations.  Admired by some."
Hell (translated by Steve Ellis)
Hell (translated by Steve Ellis)
"Steve Ellis (1994)  Four-foot lines."
The Inferno of Dante: A New Verse Translation (English and Italian Edition)
The Inferno of Dante: A New Verse Translation (English and Italian Edition)
"Robert Pinsky (1994)  Meter varies, with some rhyming.   Famous American poet.  Admired by some.  Illustrated by Michael Mazur."
The Divine Comedy of Dante Alighieri: Volume 1: Inferno
The Divine Comedy of Dante Alighieri: Volume 1: Inferno
"Robert M. Durling and Robert Martinez (1996)   Prose.  Tercets correspond to paragraphs.  American professors.  Scholarly."
The Inferno
The Inferno
"Robert and Jean Hollander (2002)  Husband and wife.  Husband is a professor at Princeton University and is responsible for the useful Princeton Dante Project on the internet."
Inferno: A New Verse Translation (New Verse Translation by Michael Palma) (Vol 1)
Inferno: A New Verse Translation (New Verse Translation by Michael Palma) (Vol 1)
"Michael Palma (2003) (W.W. Norton)"
Inferno (Modern Library Classics)
Inferno (Modern Library Classics)
"Anthony Esolen (2005) (Modern Library Classics)"
The Divine Comedy: Volume 1: Inferno (Penguin Classics) (Pt. 1) (English and Italian Edition)
The Divine Comedy: Volume 1: Inferno (Penguin Classics) (Pt. 1) (English and Italian Edition)
"Robin Kirkpatrick  (2006) (Penguin Classics)"
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