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Ezra Pound discussion list of the University of Maine <[log in to unmask]>
Gregory {Greg} Downing <[log in to unmask]>
Thu, 22 Jan 1998 23:43:44 -0500
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Ezra Pound discussion list of the University of Maine <[log in to unmask]>
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At 10:11 PM 1/22/98 -0600, you wrote:
>Can someone recommend translations of the Paradiso and the Metamorphoses?
There was a discussion of Dante translations on the TS Eliot list in late
December. If you saw what I said there, don't re-read the Dante part of
this; I just cut-and-pasted it for this query. Others may want to add or
change what I toss out below, of course.
For the Div Comm or Metamorphoses or any frequently translated text, the
choices to be made really depend on what one is looking for, and one is
after all free to use more than one translation for different purposes....
Ciardi is poetic, and has the great advantage of being dedicated to
Archibald MacLeish. (Couldn't resist the quip.) Those interested in the
Italian version or annotations will (also or instead) have to turn
elsewhere; there's no Italian text in Ciardi, and the annotations are quite
Singleton's three-vol. version is in prose, but has Italian on facing pages,
and fine, extensive annotations, as mentioned above. For people wanting a
detailed sense of what Dante is getting at, which may be crucial for points
of Eliot exegesis, Singleton might be the best, despite prosaic translation
-- though prose in fact tends to permit a more literal version of the
meanings of the original's words and phrases than verse, where meter and
rhyme in English are large considerations.
Mandelbaum (3 vol, paperback) is in verse, has Italian on facing pages, and
tries to stick to the word-order of the Italian a lot, but the annotations
are quite thin. I use it in class when I have to teach the DC every couple
of years, because it's cheap, and has the Italian -- which I think is good
to refer to in class from time to time, since Dante wrote it in Italian (I
mean 14C florentine dialect), according to what I'm told. (Sorry, a second
I have to mention John Sinclair's (3 vol, ppbk) version, since it was what I
used the first time I read the DC all the way through in a first-year
undergrad great-books course; it's in prose, with Italian text, and has some
annotations and a prose discussion of each canto.
Pinsky's translation has been out for maybe three years; it's in a slightly
fudged modification of terza rima, but I haven't seen it yet, though I've
seen it reviewed, which is even better. (Final quip; bad things come in
threes -- Dante's triadically-obsessed spirit is obviosuly making me do
this.) The reviews I've seen have been quite positive.
Two nonrhymed verse translations I've seen a lot, both first published in
the 1950's, are Rolfe Humphries, and Horace Gregory. Both have indexes.
Humphries has blurbs by John Crowe Ransom and Mark van Doren; Gregory has
blurbs by Robert Lowell and Robinson Jeffers. Duelling blurbs, apparently.
Of course the Loeb Classical Library version has the Latin on facing pages
if you find that useful and are not worried about pedestrian prose
translation.... I have a couple more English versions, but they are at the
office not at home....
Greg Downing/NYU, at [log in to unmask] or [log in to unmask]