Sunday, January 15, 2017

New canto posted from Dante's Inferno

I decided to post Canto XXII in addition to the four cantos I have already posted, because Canto XXI and Canto XXII are really a pair, and they ought to go together.

    Inferno: Canto XXII

Both cantos take place in the fifth pouch of the eighth circle of Hell, where barratry (political corruption) is punished. Dante's native city of Florence was a hotbed of political corruption around 1300 AD, including the politicians who unjustly exiled the poet. The sinners here are submerged in boiling tar, and in many ways they are meant to reflect the situation in which living corrupt politicians find themselves, just as the sticky tar represents the state of a corrupt government.

Both cantos also feature ten black demons, whose general attributes have informed the Western conception of devils for centuries: mischievous parodies of evil humans, complete with wings and pitchforks. The demons are presented to us as the guardians of the fifth pouch, whose role is to patrol the border of the tar pit, looking for sinners trying to escape. But the demons too are rowdy and deceitful, and some of them eventually get caught up in the tar themselves.

Thus the two cantos are Dante's parody of a corrupt government, which enmeshes the authorities and the governed alike. Corruption touches us all, for it mucks up the very gears which drive society, government and industry. A lot more can be said about these cantos, but I will only add that the cantos have a lot to say in turn about our present society. Dante's Florence was torn apart by the feuding of rival political factions; and an honest citizen had little to choose from, because both sides were corrupt and bitterly partisan.

Although both parties held opposing opinions about important matters of state, neither side realized that the peaceful coexistence of opposing views should be more important than this or that view in itself. It is amazing how relevant the politics of late thirteenth century Florence are to the politics of the United States in the twenty-first century. Our politicians could learn a thing or two from Dante (who was a politician himself, before he was exiled by his opponents). I hope you all enjoy the new canto.


  1. Hello Simon, I contacted you many moons ago about a book on Dante translations I was working on. I asked you what the J. stood for in your name. Don't worry, your secret is safe with me! My book is done, thought you might be interested in it. I put it on --- --- I think I also told you about my translation of King Horn which also had an excerpt published on I think I sent it to your email a while ago. Thank you for putting up another Canto. I would really love to read more and in order! When might your translation be published?

    Peace, Russell

  2. Hi Russell,

    Thanks for thinking of me! I read through your introduction and flipped through a lot of the translations, as well as some of the extra material at the back of the book. This is so fascinating. I don't know how you tracked some of these Inferno translations down; I haven't even heard of most of them. I'm truly in awe. I love that the whole thing started because a lot of your students were playing the Dante's Inferno videogame.

    Do you mind if I put your book (with a link) in the bibliography on my other website? The website is "Dante's Afterlife" (, and it's meant as a companion site to my Inferno translation. You may be interested in it; I have extended notes, historical background, bibliography... but it's all a work in progress, so I'm adding more as I go along. I might also want to include your book in the bibliography following my Inferno translation in the print book, if possible.

    Believe it or not, my translation is almost completely ready to be published. I'm working with my cover artist now to try to finalize the cover. No word on how long that will take, but once I have a cover, it'll be up for preorder (and out a few months after that). I'll post again when I have a definite release date.

    Anyway, thanks again for showing me your book; it's so cool to see how many different interpretations there are of the same three lines. I'm honored to be a small part of your work.

    J. Simon Harris