Perhaps this edition would best be explained by how the editor created it. Using the Cary and Longfellow translations, he first determined the thought that Dante was trying to express. This thought was then written in modern English, without rhyme, though it is hoped, with much reason, as simply and straitforwardly as possible, while at the same time attempting to maintain the poetic imagery and a basic tetrameter rhythm. Rather than adhering strictly to the literal meaning of Dante's words, the editor attempted to express what Dante himself was trying to express, and to do it as intelligently as possible, without the twisted syntax and incomprehensible expressions that characterize so many of the translations of The Divine Comedy.
The result is for the reader to judge. It is certainly more accessible and easier to read for the modern reader than most other translations, whose complexity and "faithfulness" to the exact meaning of the Italian serves only to obscure the true meaning of the work. According to The Reader's Companion to World Literature (Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1956), Dante's style is "a plain, straightforward one, neither ornate nor flashy. It is full of colloquial words, homely expressions, earthy comparisons, and it makes no attempt at specifically poetic diction. Above all, it is a stripped-down style without a trace of padding." Does that describe most of the translations of Dante? It was this simple, plain style, filled with poetic imagery (but not poetic diction) and faithful to the thought of the original, if not to its exact words, that the editor attempted to reproduce.
Eyler Robert Coates, Sr.
Copyright © 1998 by Eyler Robert Coates, Sr. All rights reserved.