My first Dante was John Ciardi’s, in high school. Our tenth-grade English teacher assigned his Inferno. Within a few years I read the Singleton translation and later, Hollander’s. Like Shakespeare and Dr. Johnson, Dante is a weight-bearing beam in our intellectual architecture. Today, my relied-upon version is C.H. Sisson’s, published in 1980. In his introduction, “On Translating Dante,” Sisson writes:
“. . . all literary encounters have a certain unceremoniousness about them. We surround ourselves with books so that we can call up Montaigne, or Eckermann, or Virgil, or Andrew Marvell, as the mood takes us or the drift of our interests at the time suggests. There are scores or hundreds of merely casual encounters, and some of more intimate significance. The latter have their times in one’s development as a reader or a writer.”
Dante died on September 14, 1321, seven-hundred years ago.