Paris Review Challenge : The Divine Comedy, Season 1
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Nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita
mi ritrovai per una selva oscura,
che la diritta via era smarrita
I am always struck by the differences in the various translations of the opening lines
Hollander- Midway in the journey of our life
I came to myself in a dark wood
For the straight way was lost.
Ciardi Midway in our life's journey,I went astray
from the straight road,and woke to find myself
alone in a dark wood
Kirkpatrick At one point midway on our path in life
I came around and found myself now searching
through a dark wood, the right way blurred and lost
Musa Midway along the journey of our life I woke to find myself in a dark wood, for I had wandered off the straight path.
Mandelbaum When I had journeyed half our life's way
I found myself within a shadowed forest
for I had lost the path that does not stray
and lastly the Ciaran Carson one I am currently reading
Halfway through the story of my life
I came to in a gloomy wood, because
I'd wandered off the path,away from the light.
I think it all hinges on ''mi ritrovai''. There is an element of re-finding himself as if he had woken from a dream or nightmare and if that is so I would say the Hollander version is best in this instance
Midway this way of life we're bound upon,
I woke to find myself in a dark wood,
Where the right road was wholly lost and gone.
I rather like her version of line 3 . . . but won't have any way of commenting on accuracy of translation . . .
Maybe this will re-inspire my long-standing intent to learn Italian :)
Read Canto II this morning . . . too tired last night having spent the day driving home from a college reunion.
I'm also working through the 70-page introduction to the Sayers/Penguin edition a few pages at a time. So far the emphasis has been on multiple possible readings (literal/historical; allegorical/mystical—moral, anagogical, general allegorical) . . . It also seems to me that some folks will focus more on the language/poetry and others on the underlying theology. Personally, I consider myself religious, but doubt that my beliefs about the afterlife will match up with Hell/Purgatory/Paradise. Still, I tend to find it interesting to track different views and how they do/don't match with my own understanding of scripture.
BTW, the Paris Review is posting their own "recaps" of each Canto (the way some websites do for tv shows) as we/they read them each week . . . you can find them all via:
I can just about potter my away through the original with the help of the facing page translation but I will never understand the nuances of the language and individual words and phrases. I suppose it must be the same with Proust and Joyce . I suspect unless one speaks a language on a frequent basis one will miss the subtleties of it.
At the mid-point of the path through life, I found
Myself lost in a wood so dark, the way
Ahead was blotted out. [The keening sound]
nuances of the language...
That's most certainly true concerning most all translation. At the moment I'm reading my Meridiano; it's textual notes delve into Dante's particular usages (something I find fascinating, especially when he begins to toy with neologism in Paradiso). I've worked through the poems in the original, but occasionally I do refer back to an translation, when vocabulary becomes particularly obscure. I've never read Sayers version before -- but I'd like to! I'm ashamed to admit it (being from Maine), but I've only read a little of Longfellow's.
I very much recommend Tom Simone's translation of the Inferno, little known as it is. It's written in humble, sensitive prose poetry, and follows the Italian as close as it can.
Still working through the introduction. Right now I'm in the midst of a quite lengthy discussion of all the regional feuding in Italy and how it relates to Dante and the Inferno . . .
Also appreciating the review of the underworld that I got when I read Anne Ursu's Cronus Chronicles (The Shadow Thieves , The Siren Song, & The Immortal Fire) . . . though her entry to the Underworld is in the Mall of America (believe me, that is appropriate!) . . .
Will tackle Canto IV after a nap :)