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The Divine Comedy: Inferno

by Dante Alighieri (Tr. H.W. Longfellow)

Terms

Contents

Preface

CANTO 1

CANTO 2

CANTO 3

CANTO 4

CANTO 5

CANTO 6

CANTO 7

CANTO 8

CANTO 9

CANTO 10

CANTO 11

CANTO 12

CANTO 13

CANTO 14

CANTO 15

CANTO 16

CANTO 17

CANTO 18

CANTO 19

CANTO 20

CANTO 21

CANTO 22

CANTO 23

CANTO 24

CANTO 25

CANTO 26

CANTO 27

CANTO 28

CANTO 29

CANTO 30

CANTO 31

CANTO 32

CANTO 33

CANTO 34

Notes

Essay

Chronology

 

 

Notes

Translator's Notes

The Divine Comedy. The Vita Nuova of Dante closes with these words: "After ths connet there appeared to me a wonderful vision, in which I beheld things that made me propose to say no more of this blessed one, until I shall be able to say no more of this blessed one, until I shall be able to treat of her more worthily. And to attain thereunto, truly I strive with all my power, as she knoweth. So that if ti shall be the pleasure of Him, through whom all things live, that my life continue somewhat longer, I hope to say of her what never yet was said of any woman. And then may it please Him, w3ho is the Sire of courtesy, that my soul may depart to look upon the glory of its Lady, that is to say, of the blessed Beatrice, who in glories gazes into the fave of him, qui est per oimnia saecula benedictus."

In these line we have the earliest glimpse of the Divine Comedy, as it rose in the author's mind.

Whoever has read the Vita Nuova will remember the stress which Dante lays upon the mystic numbers Nine and Three; his first meeting with Beatrice at the beginning of her ninth year, and the end of his; his nine days' illness, and the thought of her death which came to him on the ninth day; her death on the ninth day of the ninth month,"computing by the Syrian method," and in that year of our Lord "when the perfect number ten was nine times completed in that century" which was the thirteenth. Moreover, he says the number nine was friendly to her, because the nine heavens were in conjunction at her birth; and that she was herself the number nine, "that is, a miracle whose root is the wonderful Trinity."

Followin out this idea, we find the Divine Comedy written in terza rima, or threefold rhyme, divided into three parts, and each part again subdivided in its structure into three. The whole number of cantos is one hundred, the perfect number ten multiplied into itself; but if we count the first canto of the Inferno as a Prelude, which it really is, each part will consist of thirty-three cantos, making ninety-nine in all; and so the favorite mystic numbers reappear.

The three divisions of the Inferno are minutely described and explained by Dante in Canto. They are separated from each other by great spaces in the infernal abyss. The sin punished in them are,--I. Incontinence. II. Malice. III. Bestiality.

I. Incontinence: 1. The Wanton. 2. The Gluttonous. 3. The Avaricious and Prodigal. 4. The Irascible and the Sullen.

II. Malice: 1. The Vilent against their neighbor, in person or property. 2. The Vi0lent against themselves, in person or property. 3. The Violent against God, or against Nature, the daughter of God, or against Art, the daughter of Nature.

III. Bestiality: first subdivision: 1. Seducers. 2. Flatterers. 3. Simoniacs. 4. Soothsayers. 5. Barrators. 6. Hypocrites. 7. Thieves. 8 Evil counsellors. 9. Schismatics. 10. Falsifiers.

Second subdivison: 1. Traitors to their kindred. 2. Traitors to their country. 3 Traitors to their friends. 4. Traitors to their lords and benefactors.

The Divine Comedy is not strictly an allegorical poem in the sense in which the Faerie Queene is; and yet it is full of allegorical symbols and figurative meanings. In a letter to Can Grande Della Scala, Dante writes: "It is to be remarked, that the sense of this work is not simple, but on the contrary one may say manifold. For one sense is that which is derived fromm the letter, and another is that which is derived from the things signified by the letter. The first is called literal, the second allegorical or moral. . . . The subject, then, of the whole work, taken literally, is the conditions of souls after death, simply considered. For on this and around this the whole action of the work turns. But if the work be taken allegorically, the subject is man, how by actions of merit or demerit, though freedom of the will, be justly deserves reward or punishment."

It may not be amiss here to refer to what are sometimes called the sources of the Divine Comedy. Formost among them must be placed the Eleventh Book of Odyssey, and the Sixth of the Aeneid; and to the latter Dante seems to point significantly in choosing Virgil for his Guide, his Master, his Author, from whom he took "the beautiful style that did him honor."

Next to these may be memtioned Cicero's Vision of Scipio, of which Chaucer says.--

"Chapiters seven it had, of Heaven, and Hell,
And Earthe, and soules that therein do dwell."

Then follow the popular legends which were current in Dante's age; and age when the end of all things was thought to be near at hand, and wonders of the invisible world had laid fast hold on the imaginations of men. Prominent among these is the "Vision of Frate Alberico," who calls himself "the humblest servant of the servants of the Lord"; and who

"Saw in dreame at point-devyse
Heaven, Earthe, hel and Paradyse."

This vision was written in Latin in the latter half of the twelfth century, and contains a description of hell, Purgatory, and Paradise, with its Seven heavens. It is for the most part a tedious talke, and bears evident marks of having been written by a friar of some monastery, when the afternoon sum was shining into his sleepy eyes. He seems, however, to have looked upon his own work with a not unfavorable opinion; for he concludes the Epistle Introductory with the words of St. John: "If amy man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book; and if amy man shall take away from these things, God shall take away his part from the good things written in this book."

It is not impossible that Dante may have taken a few hints also from the Tesoretto of his teacher, Ser Brunetto Latini. See Canto XV. Note 30.

See upon this subject, Cancellieri, Osservasioni Sopra l'Originalita di Dante;--Wright, St. Patrick's Purgatory, and Essay on the Legens of Purgatory, Hell, and Paradise, current during the Middle Ages;--Ozanam, Dante et la Philosophie Catholique au Treizieme Siecle;--Labitte, La Divine Comedie avant Dante, published as an Introduction to the translation of Brizeux;-- and Delepierre, Le Livre des Visions, ou l'Enfer et le Cie decrits par ceux qui les ont vus. Se also the Illustrations at the end of volume ten.

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