Wednesday, March 05, 2014

From Canto IV of Dante's "Inferno," tr. Ciaran Carson

I just had occasion to type this in for George Szirtes, who was asking on Facebook for an English version of Dante's Inferno in terza rima. This is Ciaran Carson's translation, published by Granta Books in 2002.


Shattering the deep sleep in my head,
a peal of thunder rang, so I awoke
confused, like someone shaken out of bed;

and coming to, and getting up, I looked
about with rested eyes to ascertain
where I might be. O such an awful nook!

this was, in truth, the dread Abyss of Pain
whose brink I stood upon, from which there rolled
collective groanings, endlessly sustained.

Dark as a thundercloud was that enormous hole;
so deep, the eye could get no fix on where
it ended; nor could I see any foothold.

'Down into the blind world we must fare,'
began the poet, whiter than a sheet;
'I first, then you, we'll make a goodly pair.'

And I, who'd marked the pallor of his cheek,
said: 'Go? When you, who, when I was in doubt,
was wont to be my strength, appear as weak?'

And he: 'It's when I hear the awful shouts
of those below, that pity drains my face
of color; not cold feet, as you make out.

Onward! a long road lies ahead of us.'

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