February 29, 2008


Welcome to Goat Rope's Fun with Dante series. You will also find links and comments about current events. If this is your first visit, please click on earlier posts.

El Cabrero's goal for all of this is to encourage you, Gentle Reader, to give the Divine Comedy a try, whether it's for the first or fifteenth time.

Here's how it's structured. There are three main canticles or parts (often published as separate volumes): Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradiso, which describe the Pilgrim's guided tour of the afterlife. I heard once that all three had a total of 14,000 lines in the original, although I've never stopped to count.

Each canticle has 33 cantos, which are like chapters. Inferno has one extra one by way of introduction. In the original Italian, the canticles all rhymed and had the same meter. English translations vary.The canticles are fairly short, so it's no big deal to get through one a day.

Each of the three volumes or canticles ends with the word "stars." After going all the way through hell and coming up on the other side of the world, Inferno ends with "And we stood once more beneath the stars."

After climbing the mountain of Purgatory in that volume, the Pilgrim is "eager now to rise, ready for the stars" as he prepares to tour Heaven.

Finally, after gaining a vision of God at the highest heaven (or at least as much as he could handle), he describes himself as fully in tune with "the love that moves the sun and the other stars."

You'll probably be seeing stars as well by the time you make it through. El Cabrero sure did.

One other thing about the main characters of Dante, Virgil and Beatrice. They are themselves, but they are also more. Dante the poet is a character in his poem, but he kind of represents all of us. Virgil is the great Roman poet, but he also represents human reason and effort. As a pagan who died before Christian revelation, he lacks supernatural grace but is still pretty awesome. Beatrice, on the other hand, was a real woman in life but as a character in Heaven represents divine grace.

The point seems to be that to gain the vision of God in Paradise, we need divine grace but we also have to use our reason and make our own efforts. Reason can't get us all the way there, just as Virgil can't cross the threshold to Paradise, but it is important and can help us on the way. In fact, Virgil describes the souls in hell as "those who lost the good of intellect."

Next week: the tour continues.

MORE ON THE COST OF THE IRAQ WAR. How does $3 trillion sound?

"THE SURGE IS WORKING." Or is it? Here's a critical view.

CAPTIVE AUDIENCES. West Virginia's Worker Freedom Bill was highlighted on the national AFLCIO blog. The bill would prohibit employers from requiring workers to attend meetings where management discusses unions, politics, or religion.

PRISON NATION. From the NY Times:

For the first time in the nation’s history, more than one in 100 American adults is behind bars, according to a new report.

Nationwide, the prison population grew by 25,000 last year, bringing it to almost 1.6 million. Another 723,000 people are in local jails. The number of American adults is about 230 million, meaning that one in every 99.1 adults is behind bars.

Incarceration rates are even higher for some groups. One in 36 Hispanic adults is behind bars, based on Justice Department figures for 2006. One in 15 black adults is, too, as is one in nine black men between the ages of 20 and 34.

MEGAN WILLIAMS UPDATE. Here's the latest coverage from WV Public Radio.



Mark said...

I haven't read Dante since 1992 and you have me convinced. Do you have a favorite translation?

El Cabrero said...

I don't really have a favorite. I try to switch every so often to get a different sense of how it could be rendered. One of the best ways to do it is to listen to a recorded version, for me anyway. Some libraries have them. I made my daughter listen to it as a teenager on a road trip and she loved it too, although she broke my rule and just did Inferno.

Every so often I get the urge to try to get a bi-lingual version and try to bounce back and forth between the original and the translation, the theory being that Italian may not be too different from the little bit of Spanish I know. But that hasn't happened yet and the hypothesis remains untested.

Thanks for the comment! I hope you enjoy it.