The HyperTexts

Dante Translations by Michael R. Burch

These are modern English translations of selected Dante Alighieri poems, epigrams and quotes. Dante Alighieri (1265-1321) is a near-consensus choice as one of the world's greatest poets. He is commonly assigned to the highest ranks, along with other single-name poets like Homer, Sappho, Virgil and Shakespeare. Dante's epic poem the Commedia (also known as the Divine Comedy) is generally considered to be the greatest literary work of the Italian language. The Commedia has three parts: the Inferno (hell), the Purgatorio (purgatory) and the Paradiso (heaven). Such was the magnitude of his reputation and influence that Dante has been called the "father" of the Italian language and il Sommo Poeta ("the Supreme Poet"). Dante coined the phrase dolce stil novo ("sweet new style") to describe what he did differently from previous poets. For explanations of how he translates and why he calls his results "loose translations" and "interpretations" please click here: Michael R. Burch Translation Methods and Credits to Other Translators.

Dante Timeline

1265: Dante Alighieri is born in Florence under the "sign of Gemini."
1274: Dante, age nine, meets Beatrice Portinari, age eight or nine, and falls instantly in love.
1277: Dante, age 12, is promised in marriage to Gemma di Manetto Donati.
1283: Dante, age 18, meets Beatrice for the second time in a chance street encounter, has a dream, then writes his first sonnet "Love's Faithful Ones."
1283: Dante marries Gemma Donati and writes his sonnets Il Fiore ("The Flower") and Detto d'Amore ("Sayings of Love") around this time.
1287: Beatrice marries Simone dei Bardi, a banker.
1290: Beatrice dies at age 24 and Dante is devastated. He will reincarnate her in his poems as his Muse and spiritual guide.
1292: Dante writes La Vita Nuova ("The New Life"), a long love poem about his relationship, perhaps imagined, with Beatrice.
1300: Dante is made a Prior, a position of extreme power in Florence, but soon angers Pope Boniface VIII.
1302: Dante is exiled, sentenced to death in absentia, and will never see Florence again. He writes the Latin essay De vulgari eloquentia ("On Eloquence in the Vernacular").
1306: Dante begins Convivio ("Banquet"), a long poem written in Italian in which he seeks forgiveness from Florence's warring factions. None is granted.
1308: Dante begins the Commedia ("Comedy") starting with the Inferno. He also writes De Monarchia ("The Monarchy").
1314: Dante publishes the Inferno and works on the Purgatorio.
1316: Dante begins the Paradiso.
1318: Dante moves to Ravenna where he completes the Commedia.
1320: Dante publishes the Commedia and Eclogues.
1321: Dante contracts malaria in Venice and dies in Ravenna.

Translations of Dante Epigrams and Quotes by Michael R. Burch

Little sparks may ignite great Infernos.—Dante, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch
In Beatrice I beheld the outer boundaries of blessedness.—Dante, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch
She made my veins and even the pulses within them tremble.—Dante, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch
Her sweetness left me intoxicated.—Dante, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch
Love commands me by determining my desires.—Dante, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch
Follow your own path and let the bystanders gossip.—Dante, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch
The devil is not as dark as depicted.—Dante, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch
There is no greater sorrow than to recall how we delighted in our own wretchedness.—Dante, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch
As he, who with heaving lungs escaped the suffocating sea, turns to regard its perilous waters.—Dante, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch
O human race, born to soar heavenward, why do you nosedive in the mildest breeze?—Dante, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch
O human race, born to soar heavenward, why do you quail at the least breath of wind?—Dante, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Midway through my life’s journey
I awoke to find myself lost in a trackless wood,
for I had strayed far from the straight path.
—Dante, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

INSCRIPTION ON THE GATE OF HELL
Before me nothing created existed, to fear.
Eternal I am, and eternal I endure.
Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.
—Dante, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Excerpts from LA VITA NUOVA
by Dante Alighieri

Ecce deus fortior me, qui veniens dominabitur mihi.
Here is a Deity, stronger than myself, who comes to dominate me.
—Dante, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Apparuit iam beatitudo vestra.
Your blessedness has now been manifested unto you.
—Dante, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Heu miser! quia frequenter impeditus ero deinceps.
Alas, how often I will be restricted now!
—Dante, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Fili mi, tempus est ut prætermittantur simulata nostra.
My son, it is time to cease counterfeiting.
—Dante, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Ego tanquam centrum circuli, cui simili modo se habent circumferentiæ partes: tu autem non sic.
Love said: “I am as the center of a harmonious circle; everything is equally near me. No so with you.”
—Dante, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Translations of Dante Cantos by Michael R. Burch

Paradiso, Canto III:1-33, The Revelation of Love and Truth
by Dante Alighieri
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

That sun, which had inflamed my breast with love,
Had now revealed to me—as visions move—
The gentle and confounding face of Truth.

Thus I, by her sweet grace and love reproved,
Corrected, and to true confession moved,
Raised my bowed head and found myself behooved

To speak, as true admonishment required,
And thus to bless the One I so desired,
When I was awed to silence! This transpired:

As the outlines of men’s faces may amass
In mirrors of transparent, polished glass,
Or in shallow waters through which light beams pass

(Even so our eyes may easily be fooled
By pearls, or our own images, thus pooled):
I saw a host of faces, pale and lewd,

All poised to speak; but when I glanced around
There suddenly was no one to be found.
A pool, with no Narcissus to astound?

But then I turned my eyes to my sweet Guide.
With holy eyes aglow and smiling wide,
She said, “They are not here because they lied.”

Excerpt from Paradiso
by Dante Alighieri
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

O Virgin Mother, daughter of your Son,
Humble, and yet held high above creation,
You are the apex of all Wisdom known!

You are the Pinnacle of human nature,
Your nobility instilled by its Creator
who did not disdain to be born with your features.

Love was engendered in your perfect womb
Where warmth and holy peace were given room
For heaven's Perfect Rose, once sown, to bloom.

Now unto us you are a Torch held high:
Our noonday sun—the light of Charity,
Our wellspring of all Hope, a living sea.

Madonna, so pure, high and all-availing,
The man who desires grace of you, though failing,
Despite his grounded state, is given wing!

Your mercy does not fail us, Ever-Blessed!
Indeed, the one who asks may find his wish
Unneeded: you predicted his request!

You are our Mercy; you are our Compassion;
you are Magnificence; in you creation
becomes the sum of Goodness and Salvation.

Original Italian text:

Vergine Madre, figlia del tuo figlio,
umile e alta più che creatura,
termine fisso d'etterno consiglio,

tu se' colei che l'umana natura
nobilitasti sì, che 'l suo fattore
non disdegnò di farsi sua fattura.

Nel ventre tuo si raccese l'amore,
per lo cui caldo ne l'etterna pace
così è germinato questo fiore.

Qui se' a noi meridïana face
di caritate, e giuso, intra ' mortali,
se' di speranza fontana vivace.

Donna, se' tanto grande e tanto vali,
che qual vuol grazia e a te non ricorre,
sua disïanza vuol volar sanz' ali.

La tua benignità non pur soccorre
a chi domanda, ma molte fïate
liberamente al dimandar precorre.

In te misericordia, in te pietate,
in te magnificenza, in te s'aduna
quantunque in creatura è di bontate.

Translations of Dante Sonnets by Michael R. Burch

Sonnet: "Love's Faithful Ones" from
LA VITA NUOVA
by Dante Alighieri
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

To every gentle heart true Love may move,
And unto whom my words must now be brought
For wise interpretation’s tender thought—
I greet you in our Lord's name, which is Love.

Through night’s last watch, as winking stars, above,
Kept their high vigil over men, distraught,
Love came to me, with such dark terrors fraught
As mortals may not casually speak of.

Love seemed a being of pure Joy and held
My heart, pulsating. On his other arm,
My lady, wrapped in thinnest gossamers, slept.
He, having roused her from her sleep, then made
My heart her feast—devoured, with alarm.
Love then departed; as he left, he wept.

DANTE AI FEDELI D'AMORE.

A ciascun'alma presa e gentil core
nel cui cospetto ven lo dir presente,
in ciò che mi rescrivan suo parvente,
salute in lor segnor, cioè Amore.
Già eran quasi che atterzate l'ore
del tempo che onne stella n'è lucente,
quando m'apparve Amor subitamente,
cui essenza membrar mi dà orrore.
Allegro mi sembrava Amor tenendo
meo core in mano, e ne le braccia avea
madonna involta in un drappo dormendo.
Poi la svegliava, e d'esto core ardendo
lei paventosa umilmente pascea:
appresso gir lo ne vedea piangendo.

Sonnet: “Love’s Thoroughfare” from LA VITA NUOVA
by Dante Alighieri
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

“O voi che par la via”

All those who travel Love's worn tracks,
Pause here awhile, and ask
Has ever been a grief like mine?
Pause here, from that mad race;
Patiently hear my case:
Is it not a piteous marvel and a sign?

Love, not because I played a part,
But only due to his great heart,
Afforded me a provenance so sweet
That often others, as I went,
Asked what such unfair gladness meant:
They whispered things behind me in the street.

But now that easy gait is gone
Along with the wealth Love afforded me;
And so in time I’ve come to be
So poor that I dread to ponder thereon.

And thus I have become as one
Who hides his shame of his poverty
By pretending happiness outwardly,
While within I travail and moan.

Sonnet: “Cry for Pity” from LA VITA NUOVA
by Dante Alighieri
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

These thoughts lie shattered in my memory:
When through the past I see your lovely face.
When you are near me, thus, Love fills all Space,
And often whispers, “Is death better? Fly!”

My face reflects my heart's blood-red dammed tide,
Which, fainting, seeks some shallow resting place;
Till, in the blushing shame of such disgrace,
The very earth seems to be shrieking, “Die!”

’Twould be a grievous sin, if one should not
Relay some comfort to my harried mind,
If only with some simple pitying
For this great anguish which fierce scorn has wrought
Through the faltering sight of eyes grown nearly blind,
Which search for death now, as a blessed thing.

Sonnet: “Ladies of Modest Countenance” from LA VITA NUOVA
by Dante Alighieri
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

You who wear a modest countenance
With eyelids weighed down by such heaviness,
How is it, that among you every face
Is haunted by the same pale troubled glance?

Have you seen in my lady's face, perchance,
the grief that Love provokes despite her grace?
Confirm this thing is so, then in her place,
Complete your grave and sorrowful advance.

And if indeed you match her heartfelt sighs
And mourn, as she does, for the heart's relief,
Then tell Love how it fares with her, to him.
Love knows how you have wept, seeing your eyes,
And is so grieved by gazing on your grief
His courage falters and his sight grows dim.

Reference to Dante in other Translations by Michael R. Burch

THE MUSE
by Anna Akhmatova
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

My being hangs by a thread tonight
as I await a Muse no human pen can command.
The desires of my heart — youth, liberty, glory —
now depend on the Maid with the flute in her hand.

Look! Now she arrives; she flings back her veil;
I meet her grave eyes — calm, implacable, pitiless.
“Temptress, confess!
Are you the one who gave Dante hell?”

She answers, “Yes.”

I have also translated this tribute poem written by Marina Tsvetaeva for Anna Akhmatova:

Excerpt from “Poems for Akhmatova”
by Marina Tsvetaeva
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

You outshine everything, even the sun
   at its zenith. The stars are yours!
If only I could sweep like the wind
   through some unbarred door,
gratefully, to where you are ...
   to hesitantly stammer, suddenly shy,
lowering my eyes before you, my lovely mistress,
   petulant, chastened, overcome by tears,
as a child sobs to receive forgiveness ...

Dante Criticism by Michael R. Burch

Dante’s was a defensive reflex
against religion’s hex.
Michael R. Burch

Dante, you Dunce!
by Michael R. Burch

The earth is hell, Dante, you Dunce!
Which you should have perceived—since you lived here once.
God is no Beatrice, gentle and clever.
Judas and Satan were wise to dissever
from false “messiahs” who cannot save.
Why flit like a bat through Plato’s cave
believing such shadowy illusions are real?
There is no "hell" but to live and feel!

How Dante Forgot Christ

by Michael R. Burch

Dante damned the brightest and the fairest
for having loved—pale Helen, wild Achilles—
agreed with his Accuser in the spell
of hellish visions and eternal torments.
His only savior, Beatrice, was Love.

His only savior, Beatrice, was Love,
the fulcrum of his body’s, heart’s and mind’s
sole triumph, and their altogether conquest.
She led him to those heights where Love, enshrined,
blazed like a star beyond religion’s hells.

Once freed from Yahweh, in the arms of Love,
like Blake and Milton, Dante forgot Christ.

The Christian gospel is strangely lacking in Milton’s and Dante’s epics. Milton gave the “atonement” one embarrassed enjambed line. Dante damned the Earth’s star-crossed lovers to his grotesque hell, while doing exactly what they did: pursing at all costs his vision of love, Beatrice. Blake made more sense to me, since he called the biblical god Nobodaddy and denied any need to be “saved” by third parties.


Dante’s Antes
by Michael R. Burch

There’s something glorious about man,
who lives because he can,
who dies because he must,
and in between’s a bust.

No god can reign him in:
he’s quite intent on sin
and likes it rather, really.
He likes sex touchy-feely.

He likes to eat too much.
He has the Midas touch
and paves hell’s ways with gold.
The things he’s bought and sold!

He’s sold his soul to Mammon
and also plays backgammon
and poker, with such antes
as still befuddle Dantes.

I wonder—can hell hold him?
His chances seem quite dim
because he’s rather puny
and also loopy-looney.

And yet like Evel Knievel
he dances with the Devil
and seems so damn courageous,
good-natured and outrageous

some God might show him mercy
and call religion heresy.

Of Seabound Saints and Promised Lands
by Michael R. Burch

Judas sat on a wretched rock,
his head still sore from Satan’s gnawing.
Saint Brendan’s curragh caught his eye,
wildly geeing and hawing.

I’m on parole from Hell today!
Pale Judas cried from his lonely perch.
You’ve fasted forty days, good Saint!
Let this rock by my church,
my baptismal, these icy waves.
O, plead for me now with the One who saves!


Saint Brendan, full of mercy, stood
at the lurching prow of his flimsy bark,
and mightily prayed for the mangy man
whose flesh flashed pale and stark
in the golden dawn, beneath a sun
that seemed to halo his tonsured dome.
Then Saint Brendan sailed for the Promised Land
and Saint Judas headed Home.

O, behoove yourself, if ever your can,
of the fervent prayer of a righteous man!


In Dante’s Inferno, Satan gnaws on Judas Iscariot’s head. A curragh is a boat fashioned from wood and ox hides. Saint Brendan of Ireland is the patron saint of sailors and whales. According to legend, he sailed in search of the Promised Land and discovered America centuries before Columbus.

RE: Paradiso, Canto III
by Michael R. Burch

for the most “Christian” of poets

What did Dante do,
to earn Beatrice’s grace
(grace cannot be earned!)
but cast disgrace
on the whole human race,
on his peers and his betters,
as a man who wears cheap rayon suits
might disparage men who wear sweaters?

How conventionally “Christian” — Poet! — to damn
your fellow man
for being merely human,
then, like a contented clam,
to grandly claim
near-infinite “grace,”
as if your salvation was God’s only aim!
What a scam!

And what of the lovely Piccarda,
whom you placed in the lowest sphere of heaven
for neglecting her vows —
She was forced!
Were you chaste?

Intimations V
by Michael R. Burch

We had not meditated upon sound
so much as drowned
in the inhuman ocean
when we imagined it broken
open
like a conch shell
whorled like the spiraling hell
of Dante’s Inferno.

Trapped between Nature
and God,
what is man
but an inquisitive,
acquisitive
sod?

And what is Nature
but odd,
or God
but a Clod,
and both of them horribly flawed?

Endgame
by Michael R. Burch

The honey has lost all its sweetness,
the hive—its completeness.

Now ambient dust, the drones lie dead.
The workers weep, their King long fled
(who always had been nude, invisible,
his “kingdom” atomic, divisible,
and pathetically risible).

The queen has flown,
long Dis-enthroned,
who would have gladly given all she owned
for a promised white stone.

O, Love has fled, has fled, has fled ...
Religion is dead, is dead, is dead.

The drones are those who drone on about the love of God in a world full of suffering and death: dead prophets, dead pontiffs, dead preachers. Spewers of dead words and false promises.

The queen is disenthroned, as in Dis-enthroned. In Dante’s Inferno, the lower regions of hell are enclosed within the walls of Dis, a city surrounded by the Stygian marshes. The river Styx symbolizes death and the journey from life to the afterlife. But in Norse mythology, Dis was a goddess, the sun, and the consort of Heimdal, himself a god of light. DIS is also the stock ticker designation for Disney, creator of the Magic Kingdom.

The “promised white stone” appears in Revelation, which turns Jesus and the Angels into serial killers.

The Final Revelation of a Departed God’s Divine Plan
by Michael R. Burch

Here I am, talking to myself again . . .

pissed off at God and bored with humanity.
These insectile mortals keep testing my sanity!

Still, I remember when . . .

planting odd notions, dark inklings of vanity,
in their peapod heads might elicit an inanity

worth a chuckle or two.

Philosophers, poets . . . how they all made me laugh!
The things they dreamed up! Sly Odysseus’s raft;

Plato’s Republic; Dante’s strange crew;

Shakespeare’s Othello, mad Hamlet, Macbeth;
Cervantes’ Quixote; fat, funny Falstaff!;

Blake’s shimmering visions. Those days, though, are through . . .

for, puling and tedious, their “poets” now seem
content to write, but not to dream,

and they fill the world with their pale derision

of things they completely fail to understand.
Now, since God has long fled, I am here, in command,

reading this crap. Earth is Hell. We’re all damned.

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