"So full was I of slumber at the moment in which I had abandoned the true way . . . "O Muses, O high genius, now assist me! O memory, that didst write down what I saw, . . . thy nobility shall be manifest!" Although chiefly remembered for such works as "The Psalm of Life," "The Children's Hour" and "Hiawatha," Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882) spent many years as professor of modern languages at Bowdoin, and later at Harvard. In 1843, after several trips abroad, he began work on his translation of Dante. Immensely popular, and commanding a larger audience than any other poet in America, Longfellow produced a body of work which skillfully rendered European culture into terms his New World readers readily appreciated -- with his translation of "The Inferno" one of his most important offerings.
"It is Mr. Ciardi's great merit to be one of the first American translators to have...reproduced [The Inferno] successfully in English. A text with the clarity and sobriety of a first-rate prose translation which at the same time suggests in powerful and unmistakable ways the run and rhythm of the great original...A spectacular achievement."--Archibald MacLeish
"Fresh and sharp...I think [Ciardi's] version of Dante will be in many respects the best we have seen."--John Crowe Ransom