Dante Alighieri

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Here must all distrust be left behind; all cowardice must be ended.

Durante degli Alighieri (c. 1 June 126513/14 September 1321), better known as Dante, was an Italian Florentine poet. His greatest work, La divina commedia (The Divine Comedy), is considered as one of the greatest literary statements produced in Europe in the medieval period and it is the basis of the modern Italian language.


Love hath so long possessed me for his own
And made his lordship so familiar.
Here begins a new life.
  • In quella parte del libro de la mia memoria... si trova una rubrica la quale dice: Incipit vita nova.
    • In that book which is
      My memory...

      On the first page
      That is the chapter when
      I first met you
      Appear the words...
      Here begins a new life.
    • La Vita Nuova (1293), Chapter I (as reported in The 100 Best Love Poems of All Time By Leslie Pockell).
  • Ecce deus fortior me, qui veniens dominabitur mihi.
    • Behold a God more powerful than I who comes to rule over me.
    • La Vita Nuova (1293), Chapter II.
  • ne le braccia avea
    madonna involta in un drappo dormendo.
    Poi la svegliava, e d'esto core ardendo
    lei paventosa umilmente pascea:
    appresso gir lo ne vedea piangendo.
    • In his arms, my lady lay asleep, wrapped in a veil. He woke her then and trembling and obedient she ate that burning heart out of his hand. Weeping I saw him then depart from me.
    • La Vita Nuova (1293), Chapter III, First Sonnet.
  • Sì lungiamente m'ha tenuto Amore
    e costumato a la sua segnoria
    • Love hath so long possessed me for his own
      And made his lordship so familiar.
    • La Vita Nuova (1293), Chapter XXVIII.
  • Amor che ne la mente mi ragiona
    de la mia donna disiosamente...
    che lo 'ntelletto sovr'esse disvia.
    • Love with delight discourses in my mind
      Upon my lady's admirable gifts...
      Beyond the range of human intellect.
    • Il Convivio (1304–1307), Trattato Terzo, line 1.

The Divine Comedy (c. 1308–1321)[edit]

Abandon all hope, you who enter here.
Various translations have been used in this section.

The Inferno[edit]

Love, which is quickly kindled in the gentle heart, seized this man for the fair form that was taken from me, and the manner still hurts me...
  • Nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita,
    mi ritrovai per una selva oscura,
    ché la diritta via era smarrita.
    • When I had journeyed half of our life's way,
      I found myself within a shadowed forest,
      for I had lost the path that does not stray.
    • Henry Wadsworth Longfellow translation:
      Midway upon the journey of our life
      I found myself within a forest dark,
      For the straight-forward pathway had been lost.
    • Canto I, lines 1-3.
  • E come quei che con lena affannata,
    uscito fuor del pelago a la riva,
    si volge a l'acqua perigliosa e guata.
    • And just as he who, with exhausted breath,
      having escaped from the sea to shore,
      turns to the perilous waters and gazes.
    • Canto I, lines 22-24.
  • Lasciate ogni speranza, voi ch'entrate.
    • Abandon all hope, you who enter here.
    • Canto III, line 9.
    • Often quoted with the translated form "Abandon hope all ye who enter here". The word "all" modifies hope, not those who enter: "ogni speranza" means "all hope".
  • Qui si convien lasciare ogni sospetto;
    ogni viltà convien che qui sia morta.
    • Here must all distrust be left behind;
      all cowardice must be ended.
    • Canto III, lines 14-15.
    • Variant translation: Here one must leave behind all hesitation;
      here every cowardice must meet its death.
  • Quivi sospiri, pianti e alti guai
    risonavan per l'aere sanza stelle,
    per ch'io al cominciar ne lagrimai.
    Diverse lingue, orribili favelle,
    parole di dolore, accenti d'ira,
    voci alte e fioche, e suon di man con elle
    facevano un tumolto, il qual s'aggira
    sempre in quell'aura sanza tempo tinta,
    come la rena quando turbo spira.
    • Their sighs, lamentations and loud wailings
      resounded through the starless air,
      so that at first it made me weep;
      Strange utterances, horrible pronouncements,
      words of pain, tones of anger,
      voices shrill and faint, and beating hands,
      all went to make a tumult that will whirl
      forever through that turbid, timeless air,
      like sand that eddies when a whirlwind swirls.
    • Canto III, lines 22-30.
  • Questo misero modo
    tegnon l'anime triste di coloro
    che visser sanza 'nfamia e sanza lodo.
    • This miserable state
      is borne by the wretched souls of those
      who lived without disgrace and without praise.
    • Canto III, lines 34-36.
  • Caccianli i ciel per non esser men belli,
    né lo profondo inferno li riceve,
    ch'alcuna gloria i rei avrebber d'elli.
    • Heaven, to keep its beauty,
      cast them out, but even Hell itself would not receive them
      for fear the wicked there might glory over them.
    • Canto III, lines 40-42.
  • Vidi e conobbi l'ombra di colui
    che fece per viltade il gran rifiuto.
    • I saw and I knew the soul of him,
      who cowardly made the great refusal.
    • Canto III, lines 59-60.
    • The decision of Pope Celestine V to abdicate the Papacy and allow Dante's enemy, Pope Boniface VIII, to gain power.
  • Incontanente intesi e certo fui
    che questa era la setta d'i cattivi
    a Dio spiacenti e a' nemici sui.
    • At once I understood,
      and I was sure this was that sect of evil souls who were
      hateful to God and to His enemies.
    • Canto III, lines 61-63.
  • Io venni in loco d'ogne luce muto,
    che mugghia come fa mar per tempesta,
    se da contrari venti è combattuto.
    • I came into a place void of all light,
      which bellows like the sea in tempest,
      when it is combated by warring winds.
    • Canto V, lines 28-30.
  • Amor, ch'al cor gentil ratto s'apprende,
    prese costui de la bella persona
    che mi fu tolta; e 'l modo ancor m'offende.
    • Love, which is quickly kindled in the gentle heart,
      seized this man for the fair form that was
      taken from me, and the manner still hurts me.
    • Canto V, lines 100-102.
  • Amor, ch'a nullo amato amar perdona,
    mi prese del costui piacer sì forte,
    che, come vedi, ancor non m'abbandona.
    • Love, which absolves no beloved one from loving,
      seized me so strongly with his charm
      that, as thou seest, it does not leave me yet.
    • Canto V, lines 103-105.
  • Nessun maggior dolore
    Che ricordarsi del tempo felice
    Nella miseria.
    • There is no greater sorrow
      Than to be mindful of the happy time
      In misery.
    • Canto V, lines 121-123.
  • Superbia, invidia e avarizia sono
    le tre faville c'hanno i cuori accesi.
    • Pride, Envy, and Avarice are
      the three sparks that have set these hearts on fire.
    • Canto VI, lines 74-75.
  • Necessità 'l ci 'nduce, e non diletto.
    • Necessity brings him here, not pleasure.
    • Canto XII, line 87.
  • Bene ascolta chi la nota.
    • He listens well who takes notes.
    • Canto XV, line 99.
  • ...Seggendo in piuma
    in fama non si vien, né sotto coltre,
    sanza la qual chi sua vita consuma
    cotal vestigo in terra di sé lascia
    qual fummo in aere ed in acqua la schiuma.
    • Lying in a featherbed
      will bring you no fame, nor staying beneath the quilt,
      and he who uses up his life without achieving fame
      leaves no more vestige of himself on Earth
      than smoke in the air or foam upon the water.
    • Canto XXIV, lines 47-51.
  • La dimanda onesta
    si de' seguir con l'opera tacendo.
    • A fair request should be followed by the deed in silence.
    • Canto XXIV, lines 77-78.
  • Se tu se’ or, lettore, a creder lento
    ciò ch’io dirò, non sarà maraviglia,
    ché io che ’l vidi, a pena il mi consento.
    • Reader, if thou to credit what is here
      Art slow, 'tis no surprise, since I can scarce
      Believe, who saw it all as clear as clear.
    • Canto XXV, lines 46-48.
  • Considerate la vostra semenza:
    fatti non foste a viver come bruti,
    ma per seguir virtute e canoscenza.
    • Consider your origin;
      you were not born to live like brutes,
      but to follow virtue and knowledge.
    • Canto XXVI, lines 118-120.
  • S'i' credesse che mia risposta fosse
    a persona che mai tornasse al mondo,
    questa fiamma staria sanza più scosse;
    ma però che già mai di questo fondo
    non tornò vivo alcun, s'i' odo il vero,
    sanza tema d'infamia ti rispondo.
    • If I thought my answer were to one
      who would ever return to the world,
      this flame should stay without another movement; but since none
      ever returned alive from thisdepth, if what I hear is true,
      I answer thee without fear of infamy.
    • Canto XXVII, lines 61-66.
  • Tra le gambe pendevan le minugia;
    la corata pareva e 'l tristo sacco
    che merda fa di quel che si trangugia.
    • Between his legs were hanging down his entrails;
      His heart was visible, and the dismal sack
      that maketh excrement of what is eaten.
    • Canto XXVIII, lines 25-27; translation by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
  • "Vexilla regis prodeunt inferni
    verso di noi; però dinanzi mira,"
    disse 'l maestro mio, "se tu 'l discerni."
  • "The Royal Banners are coming forth -- those of the master of hell --
    towards us now; so look ahead and see,"
    my master said, "whether you can discern him."
    • Canto XXXIV, lines 1-3.


To run over better waters the little vessel of my genius now hoists her sails, as she leaves behind her a sea so cruel.
Do not rest in so profound a doubt except she tell it thee, who shall be a light between truth and intellect. I know not if thou understand: I speak of Beatrice.
Worldly renown is naught but a breath of wind, which now comes this way and now comes that, and changes name because it changes quarter.
  • Per correr miglior acque alza le vele
    omai la navicella del mio ingegno,
    che lascia dietro a sé mar sì crudele.
    • To run over better waters the little vessel of my genius now hoists her sails, as she leaves behind her a sea so cruel.
    • Canto I, lines 1-3.
  • Libertà va cercando, ch'è sì cara,
    come sa chi per lei vita rifiuta.
    • He goes seeking liberty, which is so dear, as he knows who for it renounces life.
    • Canto I, lines 71-72.
  • O dignitosa coscïenza, e netta,
    come t'è picciol fallo amaro morso!
    • O conscience, upright and stainless, how bitter sting to thee is a little fault!
    • Canto III, lines 8-9.
  • Se orazïone in prima non m'aita
    che surga sù di cuor che in grazia viva;
    l'altra che val, che 'n ciel non è udita?
    • Unless, before then, the prayer assist me which rises from a heart that lives in grace: what avails the other, which is not heard in heaven?
    • Canto IV, lines 133-135.
  • Che sempre l'omo in cui pensier rampolla
    sovra pensier, da sé dilunga il segno,
    perché la foga l'un de l'altro insolla.
    • For always the man in whom thought springs up over thought sets his mark farther off, for the one thought saps the force of the other.
    • Canto V, lines 16-18.
  • Veramente a così alto sospetto
    non ti fermar, se quella nol ti dice
    che lume fia tra 'l vero e lo 'ntelletto.
    Non so se 'ntendi; io dico di Beatrice.
    • Do not rest in so profound a doubt except she tell it thee, who shall be a light between truth and intellect. I know not if thou understand: I speak of Beatrice.
    • Canto VI, lines 43-46.
  • Era già l'ora che volge il disio
    ai navicanti e 'ntenerisce il core
    lo dì ch'han detto ai dolci amici addio;
    e che lo novo peregrin d'amore
    punge, se ode squilla di lontano
    che paia il giorno pianger che si more.
    • It was now the hour that turns back the longing of seafarers and melts their hearts, the day they have bidden dear friends farewell, and pierces the new traveler with love if he hears in the distance the bell that seems to mourn the dying day.
    • Canto VIII, lines 1-6.
  • Quanto in femmina fuoco d'amor dura,
    Se l'occhio o 'l tatto spesso nol raccende.
  • O superbi Cristian, miseri lassi!
    Che, della vista della mente infermi,
    Fidanza avete ne' ritrosi passi;
    Non v' accorgete voi, che noi siam vermi
    Nati a formar l' angelica farfalla,
    Che vola alla giustizia senza schermi?
    Di che l' animo vostro in alto galla,
    Poi siete quasi entomata in difetto,
    Sì come verme, in cui formazion falla?
    • O you proud Christians, wretched souls and small,
      Who by the dim lights of your twisted minds
      Believe you prosper even as you fall,
      Can you not see that we are worms, each one
      Born to become an angelic butterfly
      That flies defenseless to the Judgement Throne?
    • O ye proud Christians, wretched and fallen, who, blinded to the real condition of your minds (or blinded in your minds), still have confidence in your backsliding footsteps. Do ye not perceive that we are but caterpillars born to form the angelic butterfly (symbol of the soul), which has to wing its way up to the justice of God without being able to oppose any obstacle to it? On what account is it that your spirit floats so high up in the air, (that is, what is it that you have to be so proud about,) when you are but, as it were, defective insects, whose formation is imperfect?
    • Canto X, lines 121-129. 1st Tr. John Ciardi, The Divine Comedy (1977); 2nd Tr. William Warren Vernon, Readings on the Purgatorio of Dante (1889)
  • Dà oggi a noi la cotidiana manna,
    sanza la qual per questo aspro diserto
    a retro va chi più di gir s'affanna.
    • Give us this day the daily manna, without which, in this rough desert, he backward goes, who toils most to go on.
    • Canto XI, lines 13-15.
  • Non è il mondan romore altro ch'un fiato
    di vento, ch'or vien quinci e or vien quindi,
    e muta nome perché muta lato.
    • Worldly renown is naught but a breath of wind, which now comes this way and now comes that, and changes name because it changes quarter.
    • Canto XI, lines 100-102.
  • O gente umana, per volar sù nata,
    perché a poco vento così cadi?
    • O human race, born to fly upward, wherefore at a little wind dost thou so fall?
    • Canto XII, lines 95-96.
  • A maggior forza e a miglior natura
    liberi soggiacete; e quella cria
    la mente in voi, che 'l ciel no ha in sua cura.
    Però, se 'l mondo presente disvia,
    in voi è la cagione, in voi si cheggia.
    • To a greater force, and to a better nature, you, free, are subject, and that creates the mind in you, which the heavens have not in their charge. Therefore if the present world go astray, the cause is in you, in you it is to be sought.
    • Canto XVI, lines 79-83.
  • Ciascun confusamente un bene apprende
    nel qual si queti l'animo, e disira;
    per che di giugner lui ciascun contende.
    • Everyone confusedly conceives of a good in which the mind may be at rest, and desires it; wherefore everyone strives to attain it.
    • Canto XVII, lines 127-129.

  • Contra miglior voler voler mal pugna; ...
  • Amore,
    acceso di virtù, sempre altro accese,
    pur che la fiamma sua paresse fore.
    • Love kindled by virtue always kindles another, provided that its flame appear outwardly.
    • Canto XXII, lines 10-12.
  • Men che dramma
    di sangue m'è rimaso, che non tremi;
    conosco i segni de l'antica fiamma.
    • Less than a drop of blood remains in me that does not tremble; I recognize the signals of the ancient flame.
    • Canto XXX, lines 46-48.
  • Ma tanto più maligno e più silvestro
    si fa 'l terren col mal seme e non cólto,
    quant'elli ha più di buon vigor terrestro.
    • But so much the more malign and wild does the ground become with bad seed and untilled, as it has the more of good earthly vigor.
    • Canto XXX, lines 118-120.
  • Puro e disposto a salire a le stelle.
    • Pure and disposed to mount unto the stars.
    • Canto XXXIII, line 145.


I saw within Its depth how It conceives all things in a single volume bound by Love, of which the universe is the scattered leaves.
  • La gloria di colui che tutto move
    per l'universo penetra, e risplende
    in una parte piú e meno altrove.
    • The glory of Him who moves everything penetrates through the universe, and is resplendent in one part more and in another less.
    • Canto I, lines 1-3.
  • Poca favilla gran fiamma seconda.
    • A great flame follows a little spark.
    • Canto I, line 34.
  • E 'n la sua volontade è nostra pace.
    • And in His will is our peace.
    • Canto III, line 85.
  • Lo maggior don che Dio per sua larghezza
    fesse creando, e a la sua bontate
    più conformato, e quel ch'e' più apprezza,
    fu de la volontà la libertate;
    di che le creature intelligenti,
    e tutte e sole, fuore e son dotate.
    • The greatest gift that God in His bounty made in creation, and the most conformable to His goodness, and that which He prizes the most, was the freedom of will, with which the creatures with intelligence, they all and they alone, were and are endowed.
    • Canto V, lines 19-24.
  • Tu proverai sì come sa di sale
    lo pane altrui, e come è duro calle
    lo scendere e 'l salir per l'altrui scale.
    • Thou shalt prove how salt is the taste of another's bread and how hard is the way up and down another man's stairs.
    • Canto XVII, lines 58-60.
  • Però ne la giustizia sempiterna
    la vista che riceve il vostro mondo,
    com' occhio per lo mare, entro s'interna;
    che, ben che da la proda veggia il fondo,
    in pelago nol vede; e nondimeno
    èli, ma cela lui l'esser profondo.
    • Therefore the sight that is granted to your world penetrates within the Eternal Justice as the eye into the sea; for though from the shore it sees the bottom, in the open sea it does not, and yet the bottom is there but the depth conceals it.
    • Canto XIX, lines 58-63.
  • L'esperîenza
    di questa dolce vita.
    • The experience of this sweet life.
    • Canto XX, lines 47-48.
  • Quale allodetta che 'n aere si spazia
    prima cantando, e poi tace contenta
    de l'ultima dolcezza che la sazia,
    tal mi sembiò l'imago de la 'mprenta
    de l'etterno piacere.
    • Like the lark that soars in the air, first singing, then silent, content with the last sweetness that satiates it, such seemed to me that image, the imprint of the Eternal Pleasure.
    • Canto XX, lines 73-77.
  • La notte che le cose ci nasconde.
    • The night that hides things from us.
    • Canto XXIII, line 3.
  • Di quel color che per lo sole avverso
    nube dipigne da sera e da mane,
    vid' îo allora tutto 'l ciel cosperso.
    • With the color that paints the morning and evening clouds that face the sun I saw then the whole heaven suffused.
    • Canto XXVII, lines 28-30.
  • Nel suo profondo vidi che s'interna,
    legato con amore in un volume,
    ciò che per l'universo si squaderna.
    • I saw within Its depth how It conceives all things in a single volume bound by Love, of which the universe is the scattered leaves.
    • Canto XXXIII, lines 85-87.
    • The Portable Dante : Revised Edition (Viking Portable Library) (Paperback) Mark Musa, Translator.
  • Qual è 'l geomètra che tutto s'affige
    per misurar lo cerchio, e non ritrova,
    pensando, quel principio ond' elli indige,

    tal era io a quella vista nova:
    veder voleva come si convenne
    l'imago al cerchio e come vi s'indova;

    ma non eran da ciò le proprie penne:
    se non che la mia mente fu percossa
    da un fulgore in che sua voglia venne.

    A l'alta fantasia qui mancò possa;
    ma già volgeva il mio disio e 'l velle,
    sì come rota ch'igualmente è mossa,

    l'amor che move il sole e l'altre stelle.

    • As the geometrician, who endeavours
      To square the circle, and discovers not,
      By taking thought, the principle he wants,

      Even such was I at that new apparition;
      I wished to see how the image to the circle
      Conformed itself, and how it there finds place;

      But my own wings were not enough for this,
      Had it not been that then my mind there smote
      A flash of lightning, wherein came its wish.

      Here vigour failed the lofty fantasy:
      But now was turning my desire and will,
      Even as a wheel that equally is moved,

      The Love which moves the sun and the other stars.

    • Canto XXXIII, closing lines, as translated by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow


  • The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who in times of great moral crisis maintain their neutrality.
    • John F. Kennedy misquoting Dante (24 June 1963). Dante placed those who "non furon ribelli né fur fedeli" [were neither for nor against God] in a special region near the mouth of Hell; the lowest part of Hell, a lake of ice, was for traitors.
    • According to the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library & Museum President Kennedy got his facts wrong. Dante never made this statement. The closest to what President Kennedy meant is in the Inferno where the souls in the ante-room of hell, who "lived without disgrace and without praise," and the coward angels, who did not rebel but did not resist the cohorts of Lucifer, are condemned to continually chase a banner that is forever changing course while being stung by wasps and horseflies.
    • See Canticle I (Inferno), Canto 3, vv 35-42 for the notion of neutrality and where JFK might have paraphrased from.

Quotes about Dante[edit]

Alphabetized by author
  • And you, beloved children, whose lot it is to promote learning under the magisterium of the Church, continue as you are doing to love and tend the noble poet whom We do not hesitate to call the most eloquent singer of the Christian idea.
  • Dante does not come before us as a large catholic mind; rather as a narrow, and even sectarian mind: it is partly the fruit of his age and position, but partly too of his own nature. His greatness has, in all senses, concentred itself into fiery emphasis and depth. He is world-great not because he is world-wide, but because he is world-deep. Through all objects he pierces as it were down into the heart of Being. I know nothing so intense as Dante.
    • Thomas Carlyle, in "The Hero as Poet" from Heroes and Hero-Worship (1841).
  • I wanted my illustrations for the Dante to be like the faint markings of moisture in a divine cheese. This explains their variegated aspect of butterflies' wings. Mysticism is cheese; Christ is cheese, better still, mountains of cheese!
  • Dante was the first to sing of heaven and of hell, not as the dreams of mythological fiction, but as the objects of a real faith. He was the first who lanched from this promontory on which we stand, into the vast immensity of the universe, traversed the abyss amidst demons and infernal tortures, and mounting afterwards through angelic hosts and undiscovered worlds, gazed with stedfast eye upon the glories of the Highest... Dante was the Columbus who discovered this new world of poesy... Dante probably surpassed even Homer himself.
    • Edmund Dorr Griffin, in Remains of the Rev. Edmund D. Griffin (1831), p. 335.
  • I love Dante almost as much as the Bible. He is my spiritual food, the rest is ballast.
    • James Joyce, as quoted in Richard Ellmann, James Joyce (1959), p. 226.
  • Dante has not deigned to take his inspiration from any other. He has wished to be himself, himself alone; in a word, to create. He has occupied a vast space, and has filled it with the superiority of a sublime mind. He is diverse, strong, and gracious. He has imagination, warmth, and enthusiasm. He makes his reader tremble, shed tears, feel the thrill of honor in a way that is the height of art. Severe and menacing, he has terrible imprecations for crime, scourgings for vice, sorrow for misfortune. As a citizen, affected by the laws of the republic, he thunders against its oppressors, but he is always ready to excuse his native city, Florence is ever to him his sweet, beloved country, dear to his heart. I am envious for my dear France, that she has never produced a rival to Dante; that this Colossus has not had his equal among us. No, there is no reputation which can be compared to his.
  • His very words are instinct with spirit; each is as a spark, a burning atom of inextinguishable thought; and many yet lie covered in the ashes of their birth, and pregnant with the lightning which has yet found no conductor.
  • That great genius conceived, in his vast imagination, the mysteries of the invisible creation, and unveiled them to the eyes of the astonished world.
  • Sa réputation s'affermira toujours, parce qu'on ne le lit guère. II y a de lui une vingtaine de traits qu'on sait par cœur: cela suffit pour s'épargner la peine d'examiner le reste.
    • He enjoys an immortal reputation because he is seldom read. Everyone knows by heart some twenty quotations from his writings, and that relieves them of the necessity of examining the remainder.
    • Voltaire, Dictionnaire Philosophique, 'Dante' (1765).

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