Monday, February 20, 2006

Dante and Modern America

There is a long tradition of American interest in Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy.

To that end, Professor Giuseppe Mazzotta wrote a wonderful review of three new Dante translations by Anthony Esolen in the Winter 2005/06 edition of the Claremont Review of Books. (For the review, see: Sadly, Mr. Esolen’s translation of Canto One of Dante’s Inferno only appears in the hardcopy of the Claremont Review.)

After reading Mr. Esolen’s fresh translation of Dante, I saw how readily his allegory could be adapted to contemporary political conditions, with the forces of progressivism battling both traditionalism and Natural Law tenets. So, I figured I’d try my hand at bringing some Dantesque prose and commentary into 21st Century America.

Dante’s original volgare Italian verse was written in three-line stanzas in which the first line rhymes with the third while the middle line rhymes with the first line of the next stanza. The pattern is thus: aba, bcb, cdc and so on. It is, of course, impossible to rhyme such a large work in a translation – but not in an adaptation.

So, while in the airport or on flights between Orange County and Sacramento, and with Washington's Day weekend to finish it off, here is a bit of poetry for my fellow Hacks and Flaks. For some of you, of course, Dante's original is much more appropriate (you know who you are and you know what I mean). With thanks (and apologies, if required) to Anthony Esolen for his splendid translation of Dante’s Inferno…

Canto One

Lost in a confused time and threatened by self-delusion, we are
found by a timeless idea, who implores us to return to our ancient faith.

Two hundred and thirty years after our founding
we were unknowingly in danger,
for we had strayed from our firm grounding.

(For the rest, see: )