Edmund Prestwich: On Translating Dante

The High Window

Dante_Gabriel_Rossetti_-_Paolo_and_Francesca_da_Rimini_(1862)‘Paolo and Francesca da Rimini’ by Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1862)



Three things keep drawing me back to Dante’s Commedia: the skill, inventiveness and human depth of his story-telling, his lyrical genius, and the beauty of his terza rima meter. His use of terza rima can only be enjoyed in Italian, which for me involves heavy dependence on English translations and on the notes and glosses in modern Italian given in Anna Maria Chiavacci Leonardi’s editions of the Commedia for Zanichelli and Oscar Mondadori. In this essay I want to focus on comparing how the narrative and lyrical aspects of the poems come through in Ned Denny’s freely adaptive poetic version, B: After Dante, and in two scholarly translations, one by Robert and Jean Hollander and one by Robert M. Durling, though I will make some more mention of the terza rima…

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