With a nod to Fisheaters, below is a link to a site giving a visual/textual tour of Dante’s Inferno from the Divine Comedy. Pretty neat. Check it out.

The textual quotations are from the translation of John Ciardi. Illustrations are by Gustave Dore.

Coincidentally, I just gave a single volume edition of the Divine Comedy to my wife; it is an oversized coffee table type book with Dore’s illustrations, and translated by the poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Very nice.

My favorite translation is the prose translation by Allen Mandelbaum. To me, the English fails somewhat as poetry when the rhyming tercets of the Italian are forced into English verse.

If you haven’t already read the Divine Comedy, it is well worth it. Very moving. The image of Dante who, midway through his life’s journey found himself alone and lost in a dark wood, is the perfect allegory for the soul lost in sin, and a perfect warning to us all. Reason, in the form of the poet Virgil, guides him away from sin, through hell, and on to the threshold of Paradise.

However, reason alone isn’t enough. Beatrice, the allegory of Divine Love, sends Virgil to aid him, and eventually takes him the rest of the way into Heaven. The souls Dante meets in hell, purgatory and Heaven offer examples of Divine Justice, Mercy and Charity.

The link above is a good summary of the Inferno, and a helpful little “cheatsheet” commentary.