Oh my. Okay. This is where the former English major realizes just how rusty she is at all this classic literature jazz. Where she realizes that she re...moreOh my. Okay. This is where the former English major realizes just how rusty she is at all this classic literature jazz. Where she realizes that she really needs to get off her literary duff and read more heavy duty tomes and just maybe find herself a reading group to discuss these things with. 'Cuz, man, am I finding this heavy going and trying to make myself digest all the allegorical wisdom is giving me a mental tummy ache.
Am I enjoying it? Sure thing. Am I glad I'm doing it? You betcha. Am I going to be able to write an intelligent review when I finish my journey through hell? Um.....we'll just have to see. I'm a little over half-way finished and I'm still not sure what I'm going to be saying. Stay tuned.
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*Later* Well, I have now been to hell and back. Not quite literally, but given how far out of the norm 14th C literature is for me...it was a pretty difficult read. Dorothy L Sayers' translation of The Divine Comedy 1: Hell by Dante Alighieri is tremendous. Her attempt to maintain the terza rima rhyme scheme is beautiful and the overall feel of the work is haunting. She also has provided copious notes explaining the political background and giving details on the figures Dante encounters on his journey through hell. Without these notes, I would have been lost.
Of course, most literate people have the general idea of Dante's Inferno...that hell is divided up into various levels starting with the least of sins to the most vile. It was quite a trip to finally read in detail the punishments set in store for transgressors. And quite interesting to see how the "punishment fit the crimes." But it was also interesting to find that Dante's work was not just meant as a warning of what awaits the unrepentant in the hereafter, but it is also a warning about the workings of this life. Dante was speaking directly to those in power at the time....warning them against using that power unwisely or selfishly.
This was a daunting read for me...but I intend to keep soldiering on. Next up, Purgatory.
I'm not quite sure how to rate this one....four stars out of five seems about right--for being a classic, for Sayers' terrific translation, for the awesome imagery, and for knocking me off the laurels of my English degree.
After what seems like forever, I have finished Dante's The Divine Comedy II: Purgatory (trans by Dorothy L Sayers). This was a much more difficult rea...moreAfter what seems like forever, I have finished Dante's The Divine Comedy II: Purgatory (trans by Dorothy L Sayers). This was a much more difficult read for me. First of all, there is less action. In Hell, there is constant movement from level to level and Virgil and Dante are continually observing punishment in action. There is also, of course, the horrible fascination with watching the punishment fit the crime. Because Hell is set in eternity, there is no time and therefore no time limit on action.
In Purgatory, the movement is less and, in fact, is even limited by the passing of time. Souls working their way through Purgatory are not allowed to move upward on the mountain at night, so Dante and Virgil are forced to stop several times on their journey. Purgatory was also a bit more challenging for me, a Protestant, since I was not familiar with the doctrine. Sayers does an excellent job explaining the doctrine of Purgatory in the introduction and clarifying some mistaken notions that many have. Again, without her introductory passages and excellent notes, I would have been lost.
So far, I would say the Divine Comedy is a beautifully done allegory representing the journey of the soul from sin to knowledge of and repentance of that sin to the eventual acceptance into Heaven. A bit difficult for those of us who aren't inclined to the Classics, but lovely poetry and a well-executed translation go a long way to making it more palatable. Three and a half stars out of five.
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I have now made the journey to Hell and back and up to Paradise with Dante. Just finished the last volume of Dorothy L Sayers' translation of Dante Al...moreI have now made the journey to Hell and back and up to Paradise with Dante. Just finished the last volume of Dorothy L Sayers' translation of Dante Alighieri's Divine Comedy. This is a beautiful journey that takes the soul from the confrontation of sin (Hell) to remorse, repentance, and penance for sin (Purgatory) to absence of sin and ability to enter into the divine presence (Paradise). This final installment of the Comedy was both a quicker read and a bit of a disappointment. There were long bits that just didn't seem to fit in with Paradise. There is a long diatribe against the sins of popes and priests who are leading souls astray that would seem better fit to Hell or even Purgatory. At this point, we should all be fitted for heaven...otherwise why are we here? We really shouldn't be dwelling on sin. The explanation of the various divisions of Heaven is rather interesting (although, I'm still trying to get my head around the idea that everybody is in the same Heaven, but not....). The descriptions of Heaven and the saints and angels are very beautiful. I wish there had been more of that.
I will say that Dante's journey through Heaven as an allegory for the soul's attempts to fully understand the divine and be prepared to stand in the divine's presence is well done. I'm not saying I believe every bit of it and that Dante has me converted to every precept. But he has done his job well. Three and 3/4 stars out of five (almost four--if I could just throw out those long bits...).
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Very light, homespun poetry in very simple, down-to-earth language. I loved this when I was growing up and though the poetry isn't all that profound I...moreVery light, homespun poetry in very simple, down-to-earth language. I loved this when I was growing up and though the poetry isn't all that profound I think it helped me develop a love for verse. Of course, it could also be that the edition I have is one of the first real leatherbound books I ever owned (which made quite an impression on me as an 8-year old who had already become firmly entrenched in book-love) and that it came from my grandma.(less)