That’s So Second Millennium

Paul’s reread of the Divine Comedy

July 17, 2018

The Divine ComedyThe Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I have only ever read the Inferno and the Purgatorio in Ciardi's translation. I found the Paradiso in Mandelbaum's translation and could not make the transition between styles.

Someone got me this omnibus edition of Ciardi's translations, and I was excited to finally read the Paradiso in Ciardi's verse, but of course I let all sorts of lesser things get in the way and it sat on my shelf for a decade-ish.

I've finally gone back and read the whole thing through. I'm 25 years older and have learned to criticize the stuff I read rather than simply glide through it, mesmerized, like I used to do with all my favorite books when I was a youth. Not all positive. In any case, there are certainly patches where I suspect I would have found different words and a different tone.

Ciardi's introductions and notes were tremendously helpful to me when I was young. In fact, they were as important as the poem itself, if not more so, in the way reading the Divine Comedy introduced me to the whole medieval intellectual synthesis and the sense I have had ever since that there is a similar modern synthesis between science and Catholic faith, mediated by philosophy, waiting for us that would be far grander. So it is rather strange to me that now I almost feel they get in the way. I plan to read the book again and deliberately skip everything but the poem itself sometime in the next few years in preparation for a writing project I hope to dare to undertake.

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