The final part of the Comedy of Dante Alighieri (1265-1321) raises the bar considerably. Where before in our travels we were caving or climbing, now we start to fly, up through the universe, planets, stars, to Heaven. Punishments and misery, moans and groans now give way to joy and happiness, singing and dancing. Light is dominant: no more do we hear the sounds of shades, but those of splendours. There’s colour in the characters, events, and descriptions too. We meet the Byzantine Emperor Justinian, Thomas Aquinas, Adam, Sts. Peter, James, and John, Dante’s great-great-grandfather Cacciaguida. We see letters in the sky, a cross of lights, a talking eagle made of lights, a panorama of the planets from above, Jacob’s ladder, a pageant featuring the Church Triumphant, a rose-shaped stadium of light, and the ultimate event - a vision of God. Large is the vision in this canticle; large the concepts. We hear about the creation of the world, the nature and diversity of the universe, angelology; but there’s a lighter touch: Adam tells us how old he is, Justinian gives us some potted imperial history, we hear about the lives of Sts. Francis and Dominic, and Cacciaguida talks about the good old days in Florence.

To help the reader in this daring journey, the author has kept to his belief in saying what Dante said, not paraphrasing it so the meaning is lost, nor ‘responding’ to it in such a way as to show his art as opposed to Dante’s. The first English translation in tetrameters is your pilot, illustrations your in-flight screenshow, notes and diagrams your just-in-case instructions. However, don’t worry about landing safely on this journey: it may be an impossible task, but if you come back to earth, your mission is a failure.

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