Dante (1265–1321) is the greatest of Italian poets, and his Divine Comedy is the finest of all Christian allegories.To the consternation of his more academic admirers, who believed Latin to be the only proper language for dignified verse, Dante wrote his Comedy in colloquial Italian, wanting it to be a poem for the common reader. Taking two threads of a story that everybody knew and loved – the story of a vision of Hell, Purgatory and Paradise, and the story of the lover who has to brave the Underworld to find his lost lady – he combined them into a great allegory of the soul’s search for God. He made it swift, exciting and topical, lavishing upon it all his learning and wit, all his tenderness, humour and enthusiasm, and all his poetry.
In Paradise, which T. S. Eliot among others has found ‘either incomprehensible or intensely exciting’, Dante journeys through the encircling spheres of heaven towards God.
Translated by and introduced by Dorothy L. Sayers