It has been long recognised by poets that the greater power within poetry manifests more strongly in the hearing rather than in the reading. This has ever been the way since the Greek rhapsodei sang the memory of their Homeric epics through the centuries.
With this in mind, the present posting offers a trance voicing, with accompanying text, of the first canto of Dante's immortal Inferno, the first book of The Divine Comedy. T.S. Eliot wrote in 1929: "Dante and Shakespeare divide the modern world between them; there is no third." Most of us are familiar with at least some of Shakespeare's works. It is hoped that this presentation will help to make the timeless mastery of Dante Alighieri more accessible to an English-speaking audience.
Canto 1 of Dante's Inferno can be streamed using the media player above. A CD quality audio file is also available for download here.
[Audio and text for Canto 2 can be accessed here.
Audio and text for Canto 3 can be accessed here.]
Doc & Lena Selyanina: Neptune (Internet Archive)
Wanderer (Internet Archive)
Rhapsodize: Crickets (Freesound)
Manda_g: Owl (Freesound)
Soundbytez: African Lion (Freesound)
Viorelvio: Wolf howl (Freesound)
Vincent Di Stefano
The Divine Comedy is in essence a poem of transformation. It tracks the progression of the soul from a state of immersion in ignorance, desire and passion to one of progressive awakening and transcendental insight. This process is described allegorically as Dante journeys through the realms of Hell (Inferno), Purgatory (Purgatorio), and Heaven (Paradiso).
The first canto of the Inferno both sets the scene and anticipates the full scope of the immense narrative encompassed in The Divine Comedy. It begins midway in Dante's life, a turning point when he realises that he has lost his way. As he tries to find a clear path out of the morass, he serially encounters three wild beasts, a leopard, a lion, and a wolf. These are variously deemed by most commentators to be allegorical representations of the wild and uncontrollable impulses that can distort our lives and relationships. Their presence makes it impossible for him to proceed out of his entangled darkness.
At the point of greatest despair, Dante encounters a shadowy figure who reveals himself to be the ghost of his beloved poet from ancient Roman, Virgil. Dante is reassured by Virgil's obvious familiarity with both the terrain and the nature of the obstacles that confront him.
One of the consistent elements of the Inferno - and in fact the whole of The Divine Comedy - is the appearance throughout the narrative of both historical and mythical characters. This aspect emerges in the opening canto of the Inferno, where Dante offers praise to his patron, Can Grande della Scala ("the great hound"), a powerful warrior and ruler of Verona from 1311 till his death in 1329. Similarly, Virgil speaks of Aeneas, Camilla, Turnus, Nisus and Euryalus, each of whom feature prominently in his own epic poem, The Aeneid.
Virgil offers to lead Dante out of the danger into which he has strayed, but lets him know from the start that they will need to travel through the realms of damnation and of purgation before arriving at the place of "the blessed ones." Virgil further relates that he cannot escort Dante through "that blessed realm" but that he will there meet "one more worthy than myself to guide you" thus alluding to the later appearance of Beatrice.
A PDF copy of this translation is available on request. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org