So, what are my thoughts on finishing one of the greatest poems ever written in the West, one that has influenced countless authors from Chaucer to Eliot and whose idiom has passed into popular culture ("Abandon hope, all ye who enter here!") almost without our noticing?
Well, "thank God" comes to mind. Almost ironically.
As in, "thank God I don't have to read this any more".
To be completely and utterly fair to Dante, I actually think the main problem here is the translation I read. Geoffery A. Bickersteth announces in his introduction that his aim is to be as close to Dante as he can possibly get without actually re-writing it in Italian. This is all very well and good - an admirable aim, one might say - except that this involves reproducing Dante's actual verse structure, the terza rima, with rhyme and everything. This leads to some very iffy rhyming, including words that don't actually exist any more. I even saw the word "ee" once. No kidding.
There are absolutely no notes in this edition, either (well, only textual ones, about alternative readings and manuscript stuff), so basically everything went straight over my head. Who are all these saints Dante keeps banging on about? Who knows? Certainly not me.
Just to clarify, if you don't know what The Divine Comedy is about, essentially Dante has a dream/hallucination/vision thing about visiting Hell, Purgatory and Heaven (in that order) as part of an attempt on, apparently, God's part to Mend His Ways. God kind of comes across as a megalomaniac here, though. Like when he puts those who were forced to break their vows - and I stress, forced - into the lowest circle of heaven. How is this fair? And it gives me the shivers when the heavenly souls claim that they are happy where they are - even in the low heavens - because God is happy, and they share his opinion ON EVERYTHING.
I'm sorry, but I would like to see some independence of thought in enlightened souls.
The moral to take away from this review is, essentially, don't read this edition. I think it's fairly rare, though, so I was probably just unlucky.