The second part of the Comedy of Dante Alighieri (1265-1321) continues with Dante and his guide Virgil climbing the cornices of Mount Purgatory. This canticle is far less bleak than Hell, because the punished will be forgiven and will eventually reach Paradise. Here we have hope, songs rather than groans, and talk of art, poetry, life, philosophy, and love. We experience the delights of the Garden of Eden, situated on the top of the mountain, and learn something of Dante’s life and his relationship with Beatrice, who he meets again after ten years. Whereas the moral theme of Hell was vice, here a more positive note is struck: yes, there are still the Seven Deadly Sins – and where would they be without politicians and clerics to commit them – but we learn more about the virtues opposed to these sins, and most of all we learn that love, not hate, is the key principle of our existence.

This new translation of Purgatory is a further emphatic statement of the author’s belief in plain, simple, and precise language in the spirit of Dante’s own vernacular. If you want to know what Dante actually said and how he said it, you’ll find it here. Dante’s terza rima is not reproducible if precision is your goal, but the novel use of iambic tetrameters is an acceptable compromise, allowing the line to push along in a way pentameters can’t. There are over a hundred pages of notes to aid the reader’s enjoyment and understanding, plus twenty-eight illustrations redesigned from Gustave Doré’s original engravings. Two original maps of Purgatory and the medieval cosmos provide further guidance.

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