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The Divine Comedy Dante describes his imaginary journey through Hell, Purgatory, and Paradise. No other poem in any language has had
such a wide appeal: the conception is so lofty, the music so beautiful, and
the interest of the narrative so sustained, that its importance has
Steadily increased. For the last six hundred years learned commentaries
have been accumulating; and so, inevitably, have the translations. __________
As the “terza rima” form of the original is alien to English, blank verse has been chosen, the form used by Milton in Paradise Lost. In his foreword to that poem, he says: “The measure is English heroic verse without rime, as that of Homer in Greek, and of Virgil in Latin— rime being no necessary adjunct or true ornament of poem or good verse, in longer works especially, but the invention of a barbarous age, to set off wretched matter and lame metre; graced indeed since by the use of some famous modern poets, carried away by cuStom, but much to their own vexation, hindrance, and constraint to express many things otherwise, and for the most part worse, than else they would have expressed them.”
It is natural that the scenes so vividly described by Dante should have inspired many artists—such as Botticelli, Flaxman and Blake— to depict them. Most famous of all the illustrations are those of Gustave Dore (1833 -1883) whose dramatic portrayals, particularly of the horrors of the Inferno, are unsurpassed. A careful selection, reproduced from the original illustrations, embellish this edition.