What are your thoughts on Purgatory?
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What do you think?
At the heart of it, any translation is essentially violence to the text. No translation is ever word-for-word; languages are different, and idioms rarely translate literally. Poetry only compounds this problem. If you've ever tried to write poetry with a strict rhyme and meter scheme, you know it's incredibly difficult to maintain such a scheme and still say what you want to say (even in your first language). Dante uses what is known as 'terza rima,' which means the line are in groups of three, or tercets, with lines rhyming as follows: ABA-BCB-CDC and so on. He also uses exactly 11 syllables per line.
The translator, however, has to essentially re-do the entire task, but he isn't free to shift around meaning or phrase. In fact, some translators choose not to maintain the rhyme scheme in favor of making a less awkward translation. Mark Musa, which we've referred to above, is one such translator. He elects to try and maintain a poetic rhythm, but not the rhyme, so his translation sounds a little less forced than some. But ultimately the choice of every word comes down to the translator, and you can find some really interesting variations. I tell my students to look up different translations of passages they might be struggling with, as sometimes just seeing something phrased differently makes all the difference. Seriously, do look at some other translations. Here are a few that are also free online:
Robert Hollander (2000-2007) http://etcweb.princeton.edu/dante/pdp/
Longfellow (1867), Cary (1805), and Mandlebaum (1980-84) can be viewed side by side, or alongside the Italian here: http://www.divinecomedy.org/divine_comedy.html
The Pilgrim emerges from dark and filth of Judecca, the innermost region of the lowest circle (having literally climbed past Lucifer's legs), into the predawn light of the shores of Purgatory. From there, in stages, like our eyes getting used to the light after a long time in the dark, the Poet returns color, light, and most importantly, reason to the narrative. More complex theological concepts are introduced. Math, geometry, and astronomy are used to describe or explain things. This is also a conceptual bridge between the reason offered by Virgil (who almost, but not quite grasps the full scope of the Christian truth suggested by the Comedy), and the complex Scholastic and metaphysical reason offered by Statius and later Beatrice and Bernard.
That's the sense in which I meant the leap from Inferno to Paradiso would have been impossible without Purgatorio. I hope that clarifies! :)